6:16pm

Tue October 2, 2012
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A Big Drop In Tennessee College Enrollment

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Enrollment at most of Tennessee’s public colleges and universities is down significantly this fall.

The Tennessee Board of Regents system is reporting a decline in full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of 4.4 percent from fall 2011. TBR’s six universities and 13 colleges are all showing flat or falling enrollment.

Middle Tennessee State University is the largest school in the TBR system. After a decade of steady increases, this fall’s FTE enrollment at MTSU fell by 4.5 percent from the previous year. The MTSU freshman class is the smallest since 2005.

MTSU spokesman Andrew Oppmann believes several factors contributed to the decline, but says steadily rising tuition costs aren’t helping.

“Particularly felt hard here at Middle Tennessee State University where so many of our students have jobs that that they hold to support themselves through college. Any increase in tuition is felt very keenly.”

MTSU also reports a significant number of students failed to return for the fall semester. Student retention is significant because the Tennessee General Assembly recently tied future state funding for higher education to graduation rates.

TBR Chancellor John Morgan says it isn't clear yet if the downturn will trigger additional cuts in state funding. He says his staff hasn't had time yet to "go deeply behind these numbers and see exactly where declines in enrollment are."

Schools associated with the University of Tennessee, the state's other system of higher education, have not yet released their fall enrollment numbers.