Across Tennessee, graduation season has arrived.
At Middle Tennessee State University, we bestowed 2500 degrees to new graduates in our May 7 Commencement ceremonies. We are grateful to have played a role in preparing these scholars for the future, their own and that of our great state.
With the majority choosing to remain, live, and work in the Mid-state area, these distinctive graduates, who represent a range of ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, will contribute to the betterment of the local community through their experiences, skills, expertise and diversity of perspectives.
Through MTSU’s ever-expanding role in attracting talent, fostering innovation, and promoting sustainable change, we have the privilege and duty of supplementing the value that higher education brings to society. Our responsibility as the top producer of college graduates for the Nashville economy allows us to fulfill a significant role in providing opportunities for prospective and current students from the local community.
As the only four-year educational institution in Rutherford County, MTSU serves as a community asset by gearing students toward success in their professional and civic lives. Nearly 20 percent of the annual increase in bachelor’s or above educational attainment can be attributed to MTSU graduates. Of 4,920 degrees conferred in the 2019-2020 academic year, MTSU awarded 1,790 to Rutherford County graduates.
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In 2021, MTSU graduates accounted for roughly two in every five adults with bachelor’s degrees, or above, in Rutherford County. Thirty-one percent of the total number of enrolled students at MTSU in fall 2021 were also from Rutherford County, with an average of 836 in each freshman class since 2018. On a related note, MTSU is also proud to serve as Murfreesboro’s largest employer, providing 2,270 jobs.
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, MTSU enrolls one of the most significant numbers of adult learners among locally-governed institutions. In the fall of 2021, the largest percentage (33%) of the 5,066 adult learners originated from Rutherford County.
Among these are veteran students, influencing MTSU’s consistent prominence in the Military Times “Best for Vets” ranking. Of 1,285 veteran students, 278 are from Rutherford County. MTSU is home to the largest veterans’ center within any Tennessee higher education institution. The Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center provides support to veterans and their families by assisting with the enrollment process, locating employment opportunities, extending the veteran-education knowledge base, and encouraging their academic success.
MTSU is also a major contributing factor for increased tourism in Rutherford County. Between 2020 and 2021, the university hosted an estimated 176,004 day-trippers and 112,646 visitors who spent at least one night in the county. The estimated spending for a day-tripper is $107.22, with the spending for a visitor staying overnight around $371. Athletic events accounted for much of this traffic.
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During the pandemic, MTSU continued to mold the socio-economic trends in the local community. Our Office for Community Engagement and Support serves as an indication of MTSU’s commitment to our hometown through its focus on outreach and building relationships with local partners. Through our commitment to learning and to creating initiative, MTSU continues to be a beacon of knowledge, trust, and hope for the community.
MTSU’s socio-economic contributions also extend to the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the wider Mid-State. The vast concentration of MTSU students originates within the Middle Tennessee region, which consists of 38 counties, including Rutherford. Because MTSU is so affordable and is committed to maintaining our affordability, our alumni comprise a vast portion of the workforce in the state of Tennessee.
Out of 40 schools in Tennessee, U.S. News & World Report ranked MTSU 10th in its 2022 best colleges list. MTSU alumni account for 6 percent of the total 27 percent of Tennessee graduates with a bachelor’s, or above, educational attainment. One in every six public university undergraduate degrees awarded in Tennessee can be attributed to MTSU.
The Nashville SMA has seen a significant increase with 25,491 citizens with bachelor’s, and above, degrees, with a notable 11 percent of this increase attributed to MTSU graduates. Of those attaining a higher education degree at MTSU, 78 percent of total alumni continued to live and work within Tennessee in 2021. The net local retention of the skilled workforce in the Nashville SMA increased by 1,124, thanks to MTSU.
MTSU serves as one of the most affordable four-year institutions in the state, with 86 percent of students receiving some form of grant or scholarship aid in 2020. As a participant in the federal student aid program, more than 4,000 students from the Nashville SMA enrolled at MTSU in the fall 2021 semester were Pell-eligible. With the establishment of the Scholars Academy Program, the university demonstrated its devotion to providing the necessary resources and guidance for Pell-eligible and/or first-generation students,
We also provide funding opportunities for graduate students, with 29 percent and 18 percent of total graduate students in the fall 2021 term from Rutherford and Davidson, respectively. The Samuel H. Howard MBA Scholarship and the Tammy Jones Memorial Scholarship exemplify opportunities available for these students.
MTSU excels in providing flexibility through its online program offerings, and is the only Tennessee university listed in Newsweek’s 2022 ranking of “America’s Best Online Learning Schools.”
Our economic impact on the state of Tennessee is significant, with the university responsible for more than $1.4 billion in total economic activity in 2021. The university, students, and visitors helped generate $56 million in state and local taxes in that same year. In short, our influence on Rutherford County, the Nashville SMA, and the Middle Tennessee region reinforces MTSU’s critical role in driving economic prosperity, personal growth, and higher education. We are deeply invested in this region and committed to serving the people of this state by advancing education, innovation, and economic prosperity.
Editor’s note: Murat Arik is the director of the Business and Economic Research Center and the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University.