Story by Matthew Giffin | News Editor
Middle Tennessee State University’s Vice President for Student Affairs Debra Sells spoke about plans for on-campus housing, construction plans and enrollment concerns at a Student Government Association Senate meeting Thursday evening.
Sells explained the university’s plans for the future of Womack Lane Apartments and Rutledge Hall, adhering to MTSU’s Master Plan for construction updated in 2016. Womack will be demolished and replaced with denser housing on the same property, and Rutledge will be repurposed as an academic building, she said. The new housing will not be apartment-style like Womack is now, but possibly a mix of double rooms, single rooms and suites.
The university plans to complete the Womack Lane project in 2025, Assistant Vice President of Campus Planning Bill Waits told MTSU Sidelines in an email.
Moreover, the university plans to build a parking garage in Womack Lot’s current location to alleviate the strain on campus parking space, Sells said.
She also gave an update on plans to renovate the Kirksey Old Main building. MTSU President Sidney McPhee detailed plans to renovate the KOM in March and said construction would begin “this summer or early fall,” though no construction has begun as of now.
MTSU needs the state’s financial support to begin construction and is only able to initiate one state-supported project per year, Sells said. Currently, the more immediate project is the school’s mechatronics building, which may take another year to secure state funds for due to rising construction costs.
She also spoke about enrollment at the beginning of the meeting, touting a 1.5% bigger freshman class than last year’s.
“That is a struggle for us right now,” Sells said about enrollment. “There are fewer students graduating from high school now, and that has been true for the past ten years in the state of Tennessee. The number of babies born 18 years ago tanked.”
MTSU’s biggest competitor is the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which surpassed Middle Tennessee in freshmen enrollment this academic year. Many of UT’s freshmen were also accepted by MTSU, but chose to not enroll there, Sells said. She cited UT’s superior scholarship budget as a reason for bigger enrollment numbers.
“We are in a difficult situation when you go up against UT Knoxville,” Sells said. “If we had that kind of money, we could buy us some more freshmen too.”
She was still optimistic, however.
“We’re gonna continue to be a really good university so that people wanna come here for our academic programs, perhaps as opposed to our football team,” Sells said.
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