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Ole Miss looks to expand on campus

As the University of Mississippi continues to get too big for its britches, university officials are looking to let out the seams a bit and purchase additional land to give the campus some breathing room.

On Thursday, the Institution for Higher Learning of Mississippi approved the university’s request to purchase 12 acres of land on Davidson Lane, commonly known as the Dunbar property.

UM officials said the property, currently owned by John and Martha Dunbar, is “critical to the long-range plans of the university due to its location to campus,” according to the minutes from the May 16 IHL meeting.

The property, located north of the Ole Miss Softball Field, is surrounded by university property on three sides.

Two appraisals were completed on the property. The average of both appraisals showed a property value of $12,260,000.

The university will purchase the property through its Educational Building Corporation for $12 million and will lease the property from EBC and make payments of $2.5 million over the next 10 years. The EBC, by state law, can purchase land for university facilities with the IHL Board’s approval.

Closing is expected to take place on Friday, unless a different date is agreed upon by both parties, and Ole Miss will take over possession of the property on Aug. 1.

And environmental study showed no recognized environmental conditions evident at the property.

University officials could not be reached for comment by press time today to explain in more detail what the property will be used for, whether additional educational buildings or residence halls.

The need for more property comes as little surprise as the university’s enrollment continues to grow.

Enrollment at the state’s flagship university expanded for the 21st consecutive year, topping 23,800 students across all its campuses in the fall of 2015. That’s up 742 students from 2014, or 3.2 percent.

The figures include the largest freshman class ever for any Mississippi university. The incoming freshman class increased to 3,969 students, up 4.2 percent from 2014 when it was 3,809.

University officials have predicted the university could see enrollment numbers close to 35,000 by 2020.