Preliminary numbers show Middle Tennessee State University's enrollment is holding about steady for the 2015-16 academic year with gains reported in undergraduate students, new transfers and dual enrollment programs with area high schools.
Numbers as of Sunday show MTSU was up about 1 percent in new undergraduates, or 36 students. MTSU's 10.4 percent gain in new transfers, or 193 new students, offset its loss of first-time freshmen over last year, which is down 125 students, or 4.2 percent.
The university is posting a 1,008-percent increase in dual enrollment students, from 37 students last year to 410 this year, which reflects its goal of reaching out to high-ability students at area high schools.
While the university's overall headcount dipped slightly from last year by 145 students to 22,766, a decrease of 0.6 percent, the institution remains the largest in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said the numbers reflect efforts to reposition the university in the light of changes brought forward by the advent of Tennessee Promise, an initiative by Gov. Bill Haslam to offer high school seniors free tuition at TBR's community colleges.
"Our intent is to provide a quality, affordable option to students seeking a four-year university experience, while also reaching out to students seeking a transfer destination that helps them reach their goals," he said.
"I am pleased that so many recognize the quality of our faculty, programs and facilities and place their faith in us by choosing MTSU for a full university experience," McPhee said. "And we stand ready to partner with our community colleges in providing the next step for our new Promise students."
International enrollment saw a 6.6 percent increase in new enrollment this year, 209 arrivals compared to 196 last year. McPhee has made international enrollment a priority and secured new cooperative agreements this year with institutions in China, Peru and The Bahamas.
MTSU is up 5.3 percent in total new graduate students over last year, 578 students compared to 549. Overall graduate enrollment, however, dipped 4.4 percent, from 2,499 last year to 2,393 this year.
Deb Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services, said her staff "played to our strengths, demonstrating our unique combination of the highest quality academic programs coupled with the individual student attention that you would expect at a much smaller college."
Sells said the university introduced several new initiatives geared for this year's incoming class, including the MTSU Student Success Advantage, which boosts the Hope Lottery Scholarship for freshmen and sophomores and provides a "Finish Line Scholarship" for students who graduate in four years.
"Students and their families understand that our goal for them is graduation in four years," she said. "More than 95 percent of the students who completed our orientation program indicated that they intend to complete their studies in four years.
"The process of becoming True Blue begins with the first recruiter contact, but continues through orientation, bill payment, Welcome Week and then throughout the student's career with us."
Sells said she was "gratified to see the growth in our transfer class," an area of emphasis for MTSU for the past two years. The university designated transfer admissions specialists and held a transfer summit for TBR community college leaders followed by a "Paint the Colleges True Blue" tour last spring at area campuses.
"More than 50 percent of our students each year bring to MTSU some credits from another institution," Sells said. "And, as we look at the number of new students at our partner community colleges, we are excited at the possibility of bringing these students to MTSU when they complete their associate's degrees two years from now."
MTSU's numbers will become final after the 14th day of classes for the fall semester.