The first schools in the Mississippi region were set up by English settlers in the 18th century. The first free public school in the state, Franklin Academy, was founded at Columbus in 1821. Efforts to create a state school system were not made until the 1840s. Public schools for black students were first established in 1862. A uniform statewide public school system was finally established in 1870. In 1910 legislation was enacted by the state to consolidate rural school districts and to provide for free school transportation. School attendance was made compulsory in 1918.
Following the 1954 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that declared racial segregation in the public schools unconstitutional, white Mississippians sought to maintain their racially segregated schools. In an effort to assist them, the state abolished compulsory school attendance in 1956. However, in 1962 the federal government compelled the University of Mississippi to admit a black student, James Meredith. In 1964 it forced 19 elementary schools to admit a total of 57 black students. In the early 1970s, desegregation under federal court orders became widespread.
In 1986 the state completed the adoption of a new education program. The most important changes were the introduction of a public kindergarten system and the restoration of compulsory school attendance.
Education is now compulsory for children ages 6 to 16. Private schools enroll 10 percent of the state’s children.
In the 2004–2005 school year Mississippi spent $7,448 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,910. There were 15.3 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.5 students). Of those older than 25 years of age in 2007, 78.5 percent had a high school diploma.
The first college established in Mississippi was Jefferson College, which opened near Natchez in 1811. Mississippi College, in Clinton, was founded in 1826 as Hampstead Academy and is the oldest institution of higher education still in operation in Mississippi. The oldest state-controlled institution of higher learning is the University of Mississippi (founded in 1844), in Oxford. Other state-supported institutions are Alcorn State University, in Lorman; Mississippi State University, near Starkville; Mississippi University for Women, in Columbus; Jackson State University, in Jackson; the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg; Delta State University, in Cleveland; and Mississippi Valley State University, in Itta Bena. In 2006–2007 the state had 26 public and 15 private institutions of higher learning, including Millsaps College, in Jackson; William Carey College, in Hattiesburg; and Tougaloo College, in Tougaloo. "Mississippi" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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