The Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act of 2014 was implemented to provide two years of tuition-free education at a community or technical college in Tennessee. The scholarship, which is meant to provide aid and enable more students to complete at least two years of higher education debt-free, has impacted enrollment at four-year institutions such as UTM.
Individual departments, such as the Office of Housing at UTM, have also been impacted by the scholarship and mentoring program. According to Ryan Martin, assistant director for the Office of Housing, overall occupancy fell from 1,896 in fall 2014 to 1,807 in fall 2015. These numbers compare to UTM’s enrollment dipping from 6,677 in fall 2014 to 6,435 in fall 2015.
According to TN.gov, 16,291 high school students enrolled in TN Promise in the first year it was offered. Thousands of students opted for eligible institutions that offered associate degree programs instead of attending four-year institutions.
Overall, this hurt first-year student enrollment and occupancy levels. Certain floors in Ellington and Browning have been closed in the past two years to adjust to new occupancy levels. However, now that two years have passed since the first set of students started their higher education journey with TN Promise, UTM, as well as the Office of Housing, are starting to see an increase in transfer students.
UTM enrollment saw an increase of approximately 64 transfer students from 2016-2017. The Office of Housing’s occupancy numbers followed a similar trend as the university and obtained 27 more transfer student applications from 2016-2017. If housing’s trends continue to correlate with the university, a larger increase can be expected for the fall 2018 school year. Currently, there is a 69 percent increase in fall 2018 applications compared to the number of applications received last year at this time.
So far, housing has not had to adapt to any major changes since the TN Promise has been implemented.
“Housing will need to monitor the increase in transfer students who haven’t acclimated to the environment of a 4-year institution to see how we can best help them adjust,” Martin said now that more transfer students are arriving at UTM.
Because transfer students are not required to live on campus like incoming freshmen, housing faces the challenge of getting these transfer students to live on campus. The benefits of on-campus housing have to be emphasized in order to obtain transfer student’s attention.
Housing also faces the struggle of learning the needs of transfer students, and how those needs may differ from first-time freshmen and returning students. For many transfer students, coming to UTM may be their first opportunity to live away for home. Resident Assistants and other Residence Life members are working closely with all residents to assist them with adjusting to life away from home. This is done with face-to-face interaction and community building events meant to help acclimate students to their new environment.