Thursday, August 10, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Best College 2017: The Best College in Every State
Each year, MONEY digs into enrollment data and student outcomes to determine which colleges provide the best value for your tuition dollars---a process that, this year, yielded the 2017 Best Colleges for Your Money ranking. But while that list is 711 schools long, we know many students are considering a much smaller set of colleges. In fact, 53% of freshmen at four-year colleges go to school within 100 miles of their home, and more than 80% attend one within 500 miles, according to an annual survey of freshmen from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. For them, we produced the following list, identifying the best college in just about every U.S. state. For the state of Mississippi, it's Mississippi State University in Starkville.
MSU-Meridian extending registration hours
The countdown is on to register for classes at MSU-Meridian. "The last couple of weeks it has really picked up," explained Kristi Dearing the Coordinator of Advising at MSU-Meridian. "Enrollment is steady compared to last year and we anticipate a lot of traffic through this office in the coming weeks." To help make the registration process easier, the Advising Center and Student Services Department is extending their hours. Classes begin Wednesday, August 16th. The last day to register for classes at MSU-Meridian is August 21st. "It is after the first day of class so it is not too late to apply if you have not applied for admission yet there is still plenty of time to get that done," said Dearing.
Making a stand: Eagle Scout builds needed equipment for T.K. Martin Center
Dressed in his scouting uniform, 15-year-old Eagle Scout Simon Banzhaf arrived at T.K. Martin Center Wednesday after school to assemble the center's platform swing with its new stand -- a proud moment for him and his father George, as the two of them had made the stand themselves to help out the center. It was the final step in a long process for the Troop 45 member and sophomore at Starkville Academy, whose first thought when deciding what to do for his Eagle Scout project was to work with T.K. Martin, a Mississippi State University-based center that assists special needs individuals. One of the center's programs is a preschool for children with disabilities -- one of those children being a family friend of the Banzhafs. It was this little girl who gave Simon the idea to try and work with the center on his project. "We connected with them and just asked them if there was anything they particularly needed," Simon said. "(We were) just trying to help people that need it."
Weather delays opening of SOCSD-MSU partnership school
Construction of Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's grades 6-7 partnership school is not expected to conclude until spring 2019 because of delays to dirt work caused by summer rains, SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant confirmed. A revised timeline presented to the school board Tuesday shows the building's anticipated completion date is now March 15, 2019. Previously, school district officials hoped to have the building completed in November 2018 and open for students at the beginning of 2019. Peasant said the new timeline means SOCSD will transition into the building during the summer of 2019 and the school will be ready for the 2019-2020 academic year. The almost $30 million, 123,000-square-foot building is funded by a local, $16 million bond, a $10 million allocation from the Mississippi Legislature and cash and land donations by Mississippi State University.
Starkville aldermen could ease restrictions on alcohol sales
Starkville aldermen could soon hold hearings on easing local restrictions on alcohol sales that will bring them in line with state statutes. Mayor Lynn Spruill confirmed the board will broach the topic at Friday's work session and could schedule at least two future public hearings on the matter Tuesday. The proposed changes, which were brought to the city by the Starkville Main Street Association Board, would reduce the distance from churches that areas zoned for commercial use are allowed to sell alcohol by the drink from 250 feet to 100 feet, allow businesses to sell beer with 8 percent alcohol content and allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol up to 1 a.m. each day of the week.
Reed's of Columbus closing after 45 years
It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and the weather seemed appropriate for the topic at hand. Lex Jackson, who came to town 45 years ago after a flood, told The Dispatch, as the rain fell, he would be closing his Columbus clothing store in the spring. Jackson said the decision is one he's been thinking about for several years. "We're not closing until next spring," Jackson said. "It will be business as usual through the fall and winter and then we'll start ramping down. But I told my employees and a few friends and word gets out, so this is as good as time as any to go ahead and announce it." Jackson said he's sure he'll be taking strolls down memory lane as the closing approaches next year. "We have customers whose kids have kids who shop here now," he said. "Forty-five years is a long time in this business. I've loved every minute of it, but it's time."
Gangs gain traction in Mississippi cities, experts say
In many municipalities around Mississippi, the idea of gang activity is downplayed or denied. Most law enforcement officials say, however, that the organized crime is everywhere. Nationally renowned gang expert Tony Avendorph says he regularly hears the stories from officers with Jackson hospitals in the classes he teaches in Mississippi. The University of Mississippi Medical Center has 70 certified police officers and 32 security guards on staff, in addition to security measures such as metal detectors, which keeps such groups from coming on to campus. UMMC confirmed its officers are certified through the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy and trained in gang recognition. If gangs are so prevalent, why isn't more heard about them? Officials say a suspect's gang involvement usually isn't included in official statements or information released to the media, and it doesn't always show up in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.
Robert Clark honored on 50th anniversary of election as first African American legislator
Robert Clark, the first African American elected to the state Legislature since the 1800s, said his priority as a member was for everybody "to pull together for a better Mississippi." Clark, age 88, reiterated that theme repeatedly during a ceremony Wednesday at the Old Capitol Museum commemorating the 50th anniversary of his historic election to the Mississippi House from rural Holmes County on the fringes of the Delta. The theme of the ceremony in front of about 340 people in a packed House chamber of the old Capitol was that in 50 years Mississippi has come a long way, but still has a long way to go.
Out-of-state companies could benefit most from franchise tax cut
Corporations with headquarters outside the Magnolia State stand to benefit most from the elimination of the corporate franchise tax, a Mississippi Today analysis of ten years of state tax data shows. Of the $278 million in franchise tax collections in fiscal year 2016, out-of-state companies accounted for $215.9 million -- 78 percent -- of that total, according to Department of Revenue figures. Just 22 percent came from in-state companies. The franchise tax is imposed on all corporations with a capital presence in Mississippi, and it is the sixth-largest tax revenue source annually. Tax revenues feed the general fund, which funds state agencies and departments to provide basic public services.
New member from Pearl River County joins Mississippi House
A new member has joined the Mississippi House of Representatives after winning a July 14 special election. Stacey Wilkes took the oath of office Wednesday to represent District 108 in the lower house of the Legislature. The district lies entirely within Pearl River County, covering parts of Picayune and rural areas. She will finish the term of Mark Formby, who stepped down in May after Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Formby to the state Workers Compensation Commission.
Economic group scores state legislators
An organization promoting economic prosperity recently graded Mississippi legislators and Lincoln County's all passed. In fact, the three Republicans from Brookhaven -- Sen. Sally Doty, Rep. Becky Currie and Rep. Vince Mangold -- were graded above average. Americans for Prosperity Mississippi is an organization that fights for economic freedom and stands for pro-business solutions, according to its website. It's 2017 economic freedom scorecard is designed to inform the public on how their local senators and representatives voted on particular bills. Doty and Currie each received an A on the scorecard for 2017 and a lifetime score of an A. Mangold received a B on the scorecard for 2017 and a lifetime score of a B as well.
Sen. Roger Wicker vows Republican comeback on health care
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker said Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known most commonly as Obamacare, will continue despite failed efforts in both the House and Senate. Wicker, the junior senator from Mississippi, spoke briefly at the Columbus Rotary Club Tuesday about the health care debate and more extensively a few minutes later as he addressed The Lowndes County Republican Women. Both events were held at the Lion Hills Center. "In the Senate, we came up one vote short of going to conference with the House with a plan," Wicker told Rotary Club members. "My team had a setback a couple of weeks ago, but we're still determined to get the job done."
More Medicare money for Mississippi in new federal proposal
Legislation being considered by the U.S. Senate could send more federal dollars to Mississippi's struggling rural hospitals. Sen. Thad Cochran supports the Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act, which would revise the Medicare reimbursement formula. According to Cochran's office, the current formula provides "disproportionately low reimbursement payments" to hospitals in rural parts of the country. "Sen. Cochran believes this legislation is important to keep Mississippi from continuing to be shortchanged under the current Medicare system," Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said in an email.
Ole Miss professor Ronald Rychlak tabbed for president of law school association
Ronald Rychlak, the Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government at the University of Mississippi, is the new president-elect of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools. His term as president will run from August 2018-August 2019. "It's a great honor," said Rychlak on being elected president. "This is an organization that I really appreciate. It helps develop young scholars and advance the legal profession." Rychlak has been on the Ole Miss law school faculty since 1987, and he serves as the university's faculty athletics representative and chair of the Athletics Committee. He previously served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the law school. Earlier this year he received the Ben Hardy Faculty Excellence Award from the law school.
U. of Alabama unveils Purple Heart parking space
In the parking lot of the southwest corner of the Ferguson Center, a new space will be reserved for those wounded in the line of military duty. The University of Alabama unveiled a new parking space for Purple Heart recipients Wednesday during a special ceremony that included university officials and veterans alike. "We need not forget that not just today, but every day, there are individuals who are making sacrifices and making decisions on our behalf," UA President Stuart Bell said. The process of getting a parking space reserved for Purple Heart recipients was a year in the making. Steven Arango, a second-year law student at UA who serves in the Marines on reserve status, contacted the university about trying to get a space recognized for veterans who were wounded during service. Arango's stepbrother, Flynn Bluett, created the design for the parking space.
See the U. of Alabama's amazing campus transformation after just 10 years
The University of Alabama recently shared photographer Duane Lamb's before-and-after pictures to illustrate the physical transformation the campus has undergone during the last decade. Look through these very familiar spots at the Capstone to see for yourself.
Do tuition discounts for out-of-state students help or hurt U. of South Carolina?
The University of South Carolina and a college oversight board clashed again Thursday over whether out-of-state students are a financial boost or burden for the state's flagship university. But the S.C. Commission on Higher Education stopped holding a USC land deal hostage over the tuition discounts, which the school gives out-of-state students. The commission and some state lawmakers have balked at the $515 million in tuition discounts that USC has offered over the last decade to lure out-of-state students. Those students still pay higher tuition on average than in-state students, subsidizing the education of S.C. residents while not displacing them at the downtown Columbia school, USC vice president for student affairs Dennis Pruitt said. Out-of-state tuition now is the school's No. 1 revenue driver, followed by in-state tuition and then state appropriations, USC chief financial officer Leslie Brunelli said.
Two new dorms finish $450 million U. of Kentucky construction spree
Incoming University of Kentucky students will see two new dorms open on campus next week, capping off a $450 million public/private partnership to provide more housing on campus. Lewis Hall, on the corner of Hilltop and University, is a new base for honors students, who were formerly part of a program, but have been elevated to college status, thanks to a $23 million gift from donor and alum Tom Lewis. The dorm will house 346 students, as well as the administrative and counseling offices of the Lewis Honors College. That includes newly hired Dean Christian Brady, who just arrived in Lexington a few weeks ago. In 2012, UK partnered with Education Realty Trust, a national dorm-building firm, to build thousands of new rooms on campus. EdR, as it's known, provided all the equity for construction, in return for long-term leases to operate and maintain the buildings. On average, UK receives about 12 percent of EdR's gross revenue. The total cost of construction has now reached $450 million for 6,850 new beds.
Solar eclipse 2017: Vanderbilt astrophysicist is a cool nerd
At parties, when Natalie Hinkel reveals she is an astrophysicist, the conversation normally stops abruptly. Sometimes people manage to muster the awkward response: "Oh, I never liked science." Or, "What do you believe about aliens?" But most times, people just don't know what to say. "I feel like a lot of times people stereotype scientists," Hinkel says. "They put me in a box of a socially awkward egotistical person who can't talk about anything." Yes, Hinkel is wicked smart -- and a self-professed science nerd. She really likes learning about what's inside of stars and how stars are made. It's her job, actually. But this Vanderbilt University planetary astrophysicist is so much more. She's a 34-year-old pseudo-hipster who likes punk rock, rock climbing and who has her own drinking and science podcast.
August graduating class sets summer record for Texas A&M
Texas A&M announced Wednesday its crop of August graduates is the largest for a summer semester in the university's history. Officials said they estimate 2,252 graduate and undergraduate degrees will be awarded this weekend across the university's campuses in College Station, Galveston and Qatar. The two College Station ceremonies will be held Friday in Reed Arena at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Over a year later, graduate student group, U. of Missouri seek summary judgment
More than a year after the University of Missouri Coalition of Graduate Workers sued the UM System Board of Curators over the right to unionize, attorneys for both are seeking to have the case decided by summary judgment rather than bench trial. According to court documents, all parties must have their motions submitted by Oct. 30, and responses from both sides will continue to be submitted into the new year. After that, they will begin oral arguments before Boone County Circuit Judge Jeff Harris. "I would anticipate we will have a ruling by this time next summer," Eric Scott, co-chairman of the coalition, said in an email, "though of course the legal system tends to work at a deliberate pace." The suit filed in May 2016 claimed that MU graduate student workers' right to collectively organize is being violated by the University of Missouri System's decision to not recognize their union, according to court documents.
Google memo reflects familiar bias for women in STEM
A leaked internal memo at Google, written by a now-fired male employee, has raised serious questions for women looking to enter Silicon Valley tech companies or to join academic STEM departments, both known for allegations of being hostile environments for women. The memo questioned whether discrimination is a factor in gender disparities in tech and at Google, and instead largely attributed those disparities to biology. The memo also railed against Google's programs aimed to recruit and aid women and minorities, calling those programs themselves discriminatory. For female and minority employees in the tech industry, however, actual discrimination is well documented, and while the memo was widely condemned, it was another sign for some that tech culture -- and STEM education -- still has a ways to go in regard to how women and underrepresented minorities are treated.
Arkansas college finds success in male-dominated fields but wants short-term Pell
Since the presidential election, some have argued that colleges aren't doing enough to help working-class people -- men in particular -- pursue the types of technical training that will get them good jobs. A community college in Arkansas, however, is among those that have found success with just that population, but it's with programs that are often short-term and difficult for students to pay for with federal financial aid. "We are focused on more career and technical education," said Jeremy Shirley, director of marketing and communications for Arkansas State University Newport. "All of our programs have advisory boards, and we tailor the programs to meet industry needs. That drives a lot of what we do, and our general education and liberal arts exist to supplement those programs." Congress has already displayed bipartisan support for expanding Pell eligibility to short-term certificates, but it hasn't taken action on the issue.

Mississippi State builds defense to try and make move in SEC
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is known for his offensive acumen, and his ability to produce great quarterbacks has been particularly impressive. Building a great defense has proven more of a challenge -- especially in recent seasons. Now Mullen has hired veteran defensive coordinator Todd Grantham , hoping the 50-year-old can help provide a quick turnaround. The Bulldogs gave up nearly 32 points per game last season, which ranked next to last in the Southeastern Conference. Mullen said Grantham has instilled a toughness that should be beneficial once the season begins. "If we play somebody and their offensive kids are still in the cold tub two days later -- that's Mississippi State defense," Mullen said.
Mississippi State confident in young defensive line
Mississippi State's defensive line was the position hit hardest in the offseason. Six players -- including three starters -- were lost to graduation while two others transferred, leaving the Bulldogs with zero seniors and no returning players who started more than four games last fall. Despite all the transition, MSU is confident about the group it has coming back. "I'm excited about the challenge with a new group," said MSU defensive line coach Brian Baker. "The only good thing about losing a bunch of seniors is that you've got a new group that you're counting on." Mississippi State will run predominantly out of a 3-4 alignment again this year with help from hybrid outside linebackers off the edge.
Donald Gray fueled by critics who doubt him as a No. 1 WR for Mississippi State
Donald Gray's Twitter header, the banner at the top of his profile page, features tweets with critical comments made by random people who have presumably watched the Mississippi State wide receiver play and were less than impressed. "Donald Gray disappointed me last year, was better in JUCO," one comment reads. "Anticipated an All-SEC career at MSU. Hasn't been that," another says. Another tweet correctly points out that Gray had four catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns against Samford, but only two touchdowns in eight SEC games last season. "I use it as motivation and also as a reminder every day of what I'm working against," Gray said. "At times when I'm tired, I reflect on a few words of what people say. The fact that I gave someone the opportunity to speak up on me, stuff like that really fuels me and kind of irritates me a lot."
Riley Self realizes dream of pitching for Mississippi State
Riley Self grew up cheering Mississippi State on from the stands and dreaming of one day becoming a Bulldog himself. Self got that opportunity as an eighth grader when MSU offered him a scholarship. Even though he had his whole high school career ahead of him, Self did not hesitate in making a commitment. "It was a dream come true," Self said. "I grew up a State fan and committing here was amazing. Finally getting here is really special too. Being able to get out there on the mound where I'd always wanted to play at is amazing." The 6-foot-4, 239-pound right-handed pitcher was finally able to make his long awaited debut in the Diamond Dogs' season opener against Texas Tech. Self worked a scoreless inning of relief with a pair of strikeouts.
Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt's lawsuit vs. school dismissed
Former Mississippi coach Houston Nutt's civil lawsuit against the school and its athletics foundation has been dismissed by a federal judge. The one-page filing Wednesday said the federal court "lacks jurisdiction under the pleadings as presented" and the suit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers. The suit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled. Nutt's attorney Thomas Mars released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging the federal suit's dismissal. Mars said he planned to "file an updated state court lawsuit next week with more details than those that were known to us when we first filed suit." Even though the federal lawsuit has been dismissed, its damage to Ole Miss was substantial.
Date set for Ole Miss' hearing with Committee on Infractions
Ole Miss' administrators always knew they'd get their chance to make their case as it relates to the NCAA's long-running investigation into the football program. Now they know exactly when and where that will happen. The school's hearing with the Committee on Infractions is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 7:30 a.m. CT in Covington, Kentucky. The COI has set aside as many as three days to hear the case, according to an appearance letter sent by the NCAA to Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter in July. The school released the letter publicly after requests were made through the Mississippi Public Records Act. The COI requested for athletic director Ross Bjork, senior associate director of athletics for compliance Matt Ball, associate director of athletics for compliance Julie Owen, faculty athletics representative Ron Rychlak and assistant coaches Maurice Harris and Derrick Nix to be present at the hearing but not former coach Hugh Freeze, who was forced to resign July 20 amid an escort scandal. Freeze will reportedly attend the hearing.
'I'm going to be in media': Former LSU coach Les Miles says he'll be on TV this fall
Get ready, America. Les Miles is coming to your television screen. LSU's former quirky, colorful coach plans to serve as a college football analyst this fall. He is in the final stages of deciding on several television opportunities, Miles told The Advocate on Wednesday night. "I'm going to be in media and in a number of different places," he said, "and I'm going to have a blast." Miles, a 63-year-old who still lives in Baton Rouge, declined to reveal what networks had extended him contract offers, but he confirmed that he visited at least one network, FOX. Wherever he ends up, the coach expects to serve as both a studio analyst and a color man during games. Miles' passion for coaching has not left, he said Wednesday night. He still hopes to land a coaching job after the 2017 season, and he's spent the spring and summer preparing for that opportunity.
Prices for U. of Alabama tickets could increase as opener draws near
As with any gamble in life, inherent risks are involved. For fans not yet secured of their place inside Mercedes Benz Stadium for the season-opening tilt of No. 1 Alabama versus No. 3 Florida State, the question one must ask oneself is if you believe market demand will increase or decrease when the tickets hit the secondary market next week? For a game that is officially marketing itself as the "Greatest Opener of All Time," odds are likely that demand increases. The cheapest face-value ticket for the game is $125. That's the price if you were one of the lucky ones who were offered an opportunity to buy tickets through the institutions. For the rest of you, the secondary market is where you'll have to go. "It looks like it's going to a very good market," John Ed Belvin of T-Town Tickets said. Part of the attraction lies in the unveiling of a new venue in Mercedes Benz Stadium.

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