JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Enrollment at Mississippi’s public universities’ declined slightly over the past year, reflecting a nationwide trend.

Data released Wednesday by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning shows 75,755 students are enrolled at public universities in the state this fall, compared to 76,510 students enrolled in fall 2021. The decline represents a 1% decrease.

The decrease in Mississippi mirrors a nationwide decline that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit focused on higher education.

The organization found that total undergraduate and graduate enrollment combined declined 1.1% nationwide since last fall, leading to a total two-year decline of 3.2% since 2020. Undergraduate enrollment dropped 1.6% at public four-year universities; 0.9% at private nonprofits; and 2.5% at private for-profits.

Mississippi State University said it reported a slight decline in freshman enrollment “after seven years of unprecedented enrollment growth.” Overall enrollment declined 1.9% from the fall 2021 total of 23,086, which the university said was its largest student body in history. The current enrollment of 22,649 remains about 420 students higher than pre-pandemic levels, the university said in a news release.

“We continue to position Mississippi State for recruiting and retaining students who want to pursue their dreams and be the best they can be,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum.

Enrollment at six of Mississippi’s seven other public universities also decreased.

The University of the Mississippi was the exception to the trend, buoyed by the largest freshman class in the university’s history. With the addition of 4,480 freshmen, total enrollment at the university is up 5%, or 1,111 students, over 2021.

“Students and families across Mississippi and around the country are coming to Oxford in record numbers for the academic excellence, vibrant campus experience and life-changing opportunities that we offer,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said in a news release.

In addition to rebounding from enrollment declines, increasing graduation rates should also be a priority for Mississippi’s public universities, Keenum said.

“Successful recruiting efforts are, of course, of the utmost importance, but the key to our future is degree completion,” Keenum said. “Our state needs more college graduates who can compete for the jobs of the future.”