MTSU’s enrollment has grown significantly, from 19,121 students in 2000 to more than 25,000 today. A key to future efforts to better serve students will be the implementation of a new strategic plan for student success.
A draft enrollment and retention plan now under my review would meet the requirements of the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 and the accompanying funding formula, where simple enrollment growth by itself is not rewarded; instead, budget allocations are based on demonstrated improvements in retention and plan was sharedwith the Faculty Senate, the Chairs Council, and other faculty last spring. Feedback was solicited through the end of September 2012.
A consulting team of faculty was then put together, consisting of Drs. Michael Arndt, Jackie Eller, Steve Estes, Marva Lucas, and Rebecca Fischer. That group worked hard through the summer of 2012 and even into the holiday season, evaluating comments that came in from faculty and administrators across the campus, reviewing the sources of data represented in the initial draft, and adding additional content to the strategic plan. As a result of their best efforts, a final plan will be forthcoming from my office.
A key recommendation in the draft plan is to reach a target maximum enrollment capacity of 30,000 students through carefully managed, targeted growth in various subpopulations of the student body. The focus would also be on attracting more students who are likely to graduate and using a variety of support systems to help keep all students on a path to academic success.
Final plans will emphasize constant communication as a key to targeted recruitment and include strategic use of software that makes it easier for the University to identify and stay in touch with top prospects. It will provide a continuum of support to keep enrolled students on track and engaged. And it will also broaden that safety net, adding more specialized programs and stricter advising requirements for students who are statistically at higher risk of academic failure.
Critical questions addressed in the plan include the following:
- Should we slow the growth of our freshman class?
- Can we better target high-achievers by slightly raising academic standards for guaranteed undergraduate admission?Should we continue to increase the number of graduate students, who earn their diplomas more quickly and reliably than undergraduates?
- Should we continue to aggressively pursue increasing the enrollment of more international students, a high-achieving group whose members generally complete their degrees on time?
- Should we continue to increase our recruitment efforts and scholarship dollars for transfer students, who have survived the so-called dropout years of early college?
As these plans are finalized and adopted, it is important to keep in mind that plans alone will not ensure student success. Retaining and graduating students is everyone’s job. Students will remember those faculty and staff members who challenged them the most, not the least. They will remember the people who reached out, who connected with them. That is why I ask each of you to remember that no matter what you do—as a member of the faculty, staff, or administration—all of us have a responsibility for student success.
MTSU is already the most efficient producer of graduates for Tennessee and a tremendous investment or the state. Part of the reason is that everyone at MTSU—every dean, every professor, every secretary, every technical support person, every groundskeeper—feels that retention and graduation of students is their job. Together, we make student success possible.