The fastest growing college in Tennessee has a campus right here in McMinnville.
Fall enrollment figures have been submitted and it’s been determined Motlow College has an enrollment increase of 19.4 percent, the highest in the state. That figure is fueled by a 60 percent increase at the Motlow center in Smyrna and a 30.6 growth rate in McMinnville.
The growth figures are not just a comparison with other community colleges, but rather all public universities, community colleges and Tennessee colleges of applied technology under the Tennessee Board of Regents system. Motlow has welcomed a larger percentage increase of students this fall than any other school.
“In 12 years as a college president, I’ve never seen growth like this,” said Motlow College president Tony Kinkel, who started at Motlow on Aug. 1. “We’re maxed out in McMinnville in terms of our class sizes. I visited four classes there last week and there wasn’t an empty desk.”
The state’s new Tennessee Promise program is getting much of the credit. The program, which began this fall semester, provides two years of free post-secondary education for students provided they meet certain requirements.
“Part of the genius of Tennessee Promise is students have to maintain 12 credits or more,” said Kinkel. “A recent phenomenon of today’s college students is they keep dropping classes and Tennessee Promise doesn’t allow that. You can’t get below 12 credits.”
The growth rate is based on full-time equivalency, which is a formula which determines how many students are taking classes on a full-time basis.
Overall, Motlow has 5,249 students on its four campuses and online. That includes 766 students at the McMinnville campus. The Smryna center with its explosive growth now has 2,093 students.
“Our No. 1 pressing need right now is a new building in Smyrna which has around a $10 million price tag,” said Kinkel. “But they say a rising tide raises all boats and the growth at the Smyrna center will help us all.”
Kinkel also praised the work of administrators at Warren County High School and at the central office.
“There is no better school in the state that we partner with better than Warren County High School,” said Kinkel. “Now it’s on to the challenge of keeping all of our students enrolled and moving forward.”
The Motlow campus in McMinnville is currently undergoing a parking lot expansion to accommodate the growing class sizes. That project is expected to be complete in about a month.