MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies reported record-high spring semester enrollment with 2,919 students registered. This continued historic success — following an almost 28% enrollment increase last fall — is even more profound against the backdrop of the pandemic and its economic impacts.
“This is the only time in the College of Graduate Studies history that we have had a higher number of students in the spring than the fall,” said Dawn McCormack, associate dean of the college.
“New students are coming into our high-quality programs and previous students are staying to complete their degree or certificates. Others come here for a class or two to work on their skills and interests.”
“Our significant fall 2020 jump in graduate enrollment and now our record spring 2021 graduate enrollment did not happen on accident,” said David Butler, dean of the College of Graduate Studies.
“This was a planned effort by many administrators, faculty and staff across the university working together to make it known that MTSU is the place to further your education in Middle Tennessee and across the state.”
To foster this growth, McCormack, Butler and the Graduate Studies team make the entire process accessible and supportive from admissions, to programs and more for all their current and prospective students, she explained.
“We value all applicants and work relentlessly to provide resources so that they can be successful from day one of graduate school to graduation,” McCormack said.
“Our college connects students with program directors early in order to for them to get personalized advising and the best selection of courses. The admissions process has been streamlined to make it simple and straight forward for applicants. We are also working to let those who have moved to our area recently know about our programs and what makes us unique in the region for graduate-level studies.”
The graduate school also offers and continues to develop a wide variety of program options outside of and including traditionally-structured degrees.
“We offer 100-plus diverse graduate programs at the certificate, masters, specialist and doctoral levels so that almost anyone can find their right fit,” McCormack said. “Our programs are developed with students in mind so that upon graduation, they will have developed skills and knowledge to be successful in their careers.”
Graduate programs were growing before COVID-19, McCormack said, and continue to grow in its wake.
“A lot of people are looking for their next steps,” she said. “Some have been laid off, but many are employed and looking to keep their edge in their careers or make shifts in their careers as we continue to see employers moving into our region.
“Some institutions in the nation are not currently accepting students for (master’s) and Ph.D. candidates in the arts, sciences and humanities, but our programs remain strong as we seek to produce leaders in higher education and industry. We also have students who have decided that they want to shift their careers, especially those who might want to enter business or work in areas where they can make a difference.”
Sarah Hendrix, manager of strategic communications for the college, said that enrollment numbers show a high percentage of students continued from fall 2020 onto spring 2021.
“That shows us we’re recruiting high quality students who are satisfied with their experience and enjoying graduate school,” Hendrix said, who anticipates the retention trend to continue into the fall and produce more enrollment growth.
She highlighted that there are several funding options available for students.
Applications for scholarships opened Feb. 1 and close April 1, she said. Students can receive tuition coverage by working as a graduate assistant or enlisting as an ROTC cadet. State and MTSU employees qualify for a state fee waiver, and some employers offer course reimbursements to their employees.
All students can apply for federal student aid and opt to pay tuition through an installment plan that does not accrue interest.
Tonia Nadeau, a Murfreesboro native and Campus School teacher who has earned three MTSU degrees, recently returned to her alma mater for the fourth time to pursue a third graduate diploma.
“I have just been blessed to get those three degrees from MTSU, and even though it was right at my back door, it has given me such a leg up and such a support into everything that I wanted to do career-wise,” Nadeau said.
Hendrix and other Graduate Studies team members supported Nadeau through her journey returning to the classroom as a student.
“It’s been quite a learning curve, and I have been blessed to have that graduate department as support,” Nadeau said. “They’re just so supportive and kind and warm and genuine, and they were exactly what I needed.”
The College of Graduate Studies is currently accepting applications for summer and fall semesters. Course registration for enrolled students begins April 5.
In addition, there are accelerated-semester options, McCormack explained.
“We have accelerated … term courses that start March 15 and last until May 6, so there is still time to apply and enroll in (these) spring courses,” she said.
McCormack encourages interested students to begin the application process now.
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)