The university has experienced a decrease in enrollment for the 2014-2015 year which will cause a drop in funding due to the lack of tuition from students.
MTSU is down 1,152 students, or 4.82%, this year from last fall semester, according to the Office of Enrollment. The drastic loss of student tuition paid to MTSU this semester has forced the university into some budget cuts, mandatory to spare current students the burden of making up lost money through another tuition increase.
“Every vice president [of a university department] will need to make their own decisions,” said Dr. Debra Sells, vice president of student affairs, “I am working currently with my own staff to make some decisions. For example, we are looking into unfilled positions and determining if they really need to be filled. We are looking into other areas where we can make cut-backs.”
Although MTSU is able to make these departmental budget cuts to combat this year’s losses, these remedies alone will not be able to compete with the changes brought on by the Tennessee Promise.
The act, introduced in February at the governor’s State of the State address, will extend the opportunity to Tennesseans to attend a two-year community college or colleges of applied technology for free. Beginning with the high-school graduating class of 2015, students that register with the program will be awarded “last-dollar scholarships” that will supplement other scholarships to cover the entire cost of tuition. Even for students who do not qualify for other scholarships, like the Hope scholarship or Pell grants, this the Tennessee Promise will still pay the full amount.
It is one component of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, which aims to bring the percentage of Tennesseans who have graduated college to 55% by the year 2025, up from 32%.
People who are eligible for the Tennessee remise scholarship but choose to go to a four-year university in their freshman or sophomore years will be awarded $500 less through the Hope Scholarship. The students who do this will receive an additional $500 with their Hope Scholarship in their junior and senior years.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported Saturday that Drive to 55 executive director Mike Krause said approximately 22,800 high school students had registered for the program. When the program was announced in February, state officials estimated that 25,000 would register.
MTSU announced their “Finish Line Scholarship” last week. The scholarship will reimburse students who complete their undergraduate degree in four years for any increases in tuition during their time at the university in the form of a final semester credit.
The university also announced that it would award Hope Scholarship students $500 at the end of their freshman and sophomore years.
“In response to [The Tennessee Promise], MTSU will provide for student who qualify for the Hope Scholarship, and who successfully retain that scholarship, we will cover that $500,” Sells said. “That will help and at least help reduce some of that negative impact of the Tennessee Promise by reimbursing students.”
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