Middle Tennessee State University's president told the Board of Trustees Monday (June 5) that the institution remains committed to recruiting high-ability students and is on track for enrollment gains in the fall.
President Sidney A. McPhee said MTSU responded to enrollment challenges posed by the Tennessee Promise, a state program offering free tuition for high school seniors to attend community colleges, by targeting top students across the state.
Gains in applications and admissions from out-of-state recruiting, and higher numbers from Williamson and Rutherford counties, as well as East Tennessee, have offset declining or stagnant numbers from Memphis and West Tennessee.
"MTSU has not lowered admission standards to achieve growth," McPhee told trustees inside the Student Union Ballroom. "In fact, we have done just the opposite, raising our admissions standards twice. This means MTSU has one of the highest admissions standards among public universities in the state."
McPhee updated the board on next fall's admissions progress in part to address what he described as a "false narrative" that has circulated on social media as part of community concerns about safety in off-campus apartments.
"Simply put, if we had to choose between quantity and quality, we would rather have fewer, better students who properly reflect the quality and purpose of our university," McPhee said.
McPhee said MTSU has seen a 21 percent increase in out-of-state applicants; a 15 percent increase from East Tennessee; a 12 percent increase from Williamson County; and a 3 percent increase from Rutherford County and the rest of the Middle Tennessee region.
He said the growth helps offset "flat, year-over-year numbers from Memphis and negative numbers from the West Tennessee region, where we are seeing a 13 percent decline versus this time last year."
McPhee attributed the push for high-ability students for increases in MTSU's average GPA and ACT scores.
MTSU's Fall 2016 GPA average for incoming freshman was 3.44, compared to 3.28 in 2011 and its Fall 2016 ACT test average was 22.4, compared to 21.9 in 2011. Also, in May, MTSU was recognized again as the No. 1 choice of the majority of Rutherford County's valedictorians and salutatorians.
"Our campus growth ... reflects the fact that MTSU is considered a great value in higher education and attractive option for some of the region's best students," McPhee said.
Overall, for fall 2017, McPhee said freshman applications are up 15.6 percent over the previous year. Also, transfer applications are up 7.2 percent and overall applications are up 12.5 percent, he said.
Admissions based upon those applications are also up over last year, he said, with freshman admits showing a 3.8 increase, transfer admits up 3.5 percent and an overall admit increase of 2 percent.
Meanwhile, McPhee said the university is supporting the city's concerted efforts to combat crime that is coming from "individuals who are engaging, in some form or fashion, in the use or sale of illegal narcotics."
The city and MTSU are working on several shared strategies, including extending the reach of campus police to off-campus areas; extending the Code of Student Conduct to off-campus behavior; and sharing crime data from off-campus complexes.
In other business, trustees increased tuition and mandatory fees for the 2017-18 academic year by 3.9 percent to cover rising utilities, physical plant and maintenance costs; scholarship obligations; and a state-mandated 3-percent raise for employees.
Under the new rates, an in-state, full-time student, taking 15 hours of courses in the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters will pay $8,945 a year, an increase of $335.
The $46-per-semester increase in mandatory fees covers rising costs or proposed programs in Athletics, Parking Services, Health Services, the Recreation Center and the Student Government Association.
Tuition and fee increases by the trustees must be certified by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which mandated that no increases for the coming academic year should exceed 4 percent.
In other actions, trustees also approved:
• New rates for on-campus housing, including a 2.5 percent increase for campus apartments and 3 percent for residence halls to cover rising utilities, physical plant and maintenance costs.
• A new degree program in Interactive Media, which will begin in Fall 2017 and reside in MTSU's College of Media and Entertainment.
• Approved a recommendation to extend tenure to 30 faculty and promote 34 other faculty.