MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University reported the largest year-over-year gains in enrollment this fall among the state’s locally governed higher education institutions, the school’s Board of Trustees learned Tuesday.
MTSU, which saw a 1.7% increase, remains the largest undergraduate institution among the locally governed institutions (LGIs), which include Austin Peay, East Tennessee State, University of Memphis, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State.
The university’s surge, coming as MTSU adapted its operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was fueled by an almost 28% growth in its College of Graduate Studies and record retention efforts of currently enrolled undergraduates by faculty and advisers.
“Our growth during these challenging times was not an accident — it came from deliberate, focused and relentless work by our faculty and staff during a global crisis,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee told the board.
News of MTSU’s growth comes as the campus celebrates a trio of national rankings from three prestigious groups:
• U.S. News and World Report ranked MTSU as the top public school in Tennessee, and No. 80 nationally, in social mobility for its track record of success in helping “economically disadvantaged students” graduate.
• For the second consecutive year, MTSU was the only locally governed institution to be included in Princeton Review’s national Best College list, an honor only afforded to 13% of the nation’s higher education entities.
• And MTSU was the state’s top public university ranked by Forbes Magazine among America’s Best In-State Employers, placing No. 27 among all Tennessee workplaces.
MTSU reported its Fall 2020 head count at 22,084, an increase of 369 students compared its numbers from Fall 2019. Its 19,192 undergraduate enrollment, while down 1.35% over last year, still places it tops among the LGIs, said Debra Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment services. The freshman class of 3,075 was MTSU’s second-largest since Fall 2013.
Also, in converting head count into full-time equivalencies, MTSU’s 17,905 number was up just shy of 1%. MTSU was the only LGI to show increases in both head count and full-time equivalencies, Sells said.
New graduate enrollment at MTSU outperformed its LGI peers, jumping by 631 this year to 2,982 total. Student success efforts led by deans and academic advisers helped MTSU retain 350 more students over last year, an increase of 2.56% from Fall 2019.
Other notables from the Fall 2020 census:
• The ACT average for the Fall 2020 freshman class was 23.23, which is above both the national average (20.7) and state average (19.4).
• The average high school GPA for entering freshmen was 3.59, above last year’s 3.54 mark.
• New graduate enrollment (1,551) is a 90.4% increase above last year’s mark.
• MTSU’s undergraduate population equals 86.9%, with graduate enrollment making up 13.1%.
• Transfer students (10,598) represent 55.2% of MTSU’s population.
McPhee’s announcement on enrollment was greeted with enthusiasm by trustees, led by Board Chairman Stephen B. Smith.
“As a trustee and an alumnus, I want to express my sincere thanks for the hard work that produced these outstanding results,” Smith said. “I’m also pleased to see these three recent rankings of MTSU, as they mirror the pride we trustees have in our university.”
In other matters, the board on Tuesday:
• Approved two new academic degree programs — Bachelor of Arts in Art Therapy and Master of Arts in Art Therapy — that will be offered through existing resources in the College of Liberal Arts;
• Heard updates on initiatives in progress at the university to address concerns related to diversity and social injustice;
• Reaffirmed the university’s commitment to free speech on campus, as expressed through adoption of the Chicago Statement, a set of principles first drafted by the University of Chicago on efforts to cultivate an atmosphere of expression and debate on campus;
• Adopted university rules that mirror new federal regulations on handling of investigations of sexual assault on campus.
• Heard updates on the university’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the campus community.