Middle Tennessee State University offers new scholarship with a twist

Middle Tennessee State University unveiled a new program Sept. 13 called the High School and Community College Counselor Scholarships program that will allow counselors to pick students to receive a one-time scholarship.

Any high school or community college that sends at least one counselor to MTSU's counselor appreciation events during the True Blue Tour stops in Tennessee qualifies for the program. The tour includes stops throughout Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville, and even crosses state borders into Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.

After registering and attending, each high school or community college with a representative present will be given a one-time $2,500 scholarship to award. The counselor will choose who receives the aid, and how to distribute it. The whole amount, for instance, could be awarded to one student, or it could be split between two or more students.

The scholarship will stack on top of other scholarships a student may use to attend MTSU, including a guaranteed four-year scholarship, a Pell Grant, or a lottery scholarship. The application deadline for all scholarships is Dec. 1.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee relied on the number of high schools and community colleges that participated in last year's True Blue Tour to figure out how many potential scholarships the school might offer. More than 180 institutions were represented at last year's tour events. There’s no limit on how many schools can receive it, but each school can qualify for only one scholarship.

Experience as a counselor informs MTSU president

McPhee previously worked as a high school counselor, and he believes counselors are key in determining who the best and brightest students are across the state.

"When you think about the interaction high school counselors and administrators have with students, they know their students best," McPhee told Knox News. "They are, I think, in the best position to determine students – particularly who meet the academic standard – what their needs are."

He added that the counselors in Tennessee are in the "best position to make those decisions that benefit students that they know it will make a difference in their lives."

The scholarship can be awarded to transfer students and students who begin community college through Tennessee Promise. For example, a counselor at Pellissippi State Community College could choose a student who’s already completed two free years under Tennessee Promise to receive the MTSU scholarship when they transfer.

McPhee also said that more than 55% of MTSU's enrollment is made up of transfer students. MTSU has a guaranteed transfer scholarship if a student qualifies, and the newly created scholarship would stack as well.

McPhee mentioned that there’s been a decline in enrollment at community colleges in Tennessee. He said it speaks volumes about how high MTSU's enrollment is based on transfer students, and added that this is the first year MTSU has experienced a decline of less than 1% in transfer student enrollment. He attributes this to his relationships with the state's community colleges, which he visits every summer.

He also said that a majority of the students enrolled at MTSU are from in-state.

MTSU hopes to expand new scholarship program in the future

McPhee hopes that the new scholarship becomes a high demand program and that he can allocate more resources to making sure everyone is accommodated. He said MTSU has been guaranteeing admissions and scholarships for 30 years and this is another step in keeping that commitment going.

"When you look at the investment that the university is making, it is quite significant actually. And we believe that … as an institution that has really the largest number of undergraduate students, particularly bright students who come from economically challenging homes, we're really making a significant difference and we think that investment is worth it," McPhee said.

The True Blue Tour’s Tennessee stops after Murfreesboro on Sept. 13 include Williamson County on Sept. 25; Clarksville on Sept. 28; Nashville on Oct. 3; Johnson City on Oct. 24; Knoxville on Oct. 25; Chattanooga on Nov. 2; Memphis on Nov. 8; and Jackson on Nov. 9. Counselors and prospective students can register for the stops by going to MTSU.edu/RSVP.

Keenan Thomas is a higher education reporter. Email keenan.thomas@knoxnews.com. Twitter @specialk2real.

Support strong local journalism by subscribing to knoxnews.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Middle Tennessee State University offers new scholarship program