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Private Universities Witness Jump in Graduation and Enrollment

Monday, September 28, 2020  
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Private Universities Witness Jump in Graduation and Enrollment 

Appeared in: Johnson City Press 

Graduation and enrollment numbers at Tennessee’s private higher education institutions have increased in the past decade, according to recent data from the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.

Independent colleges and universities awarded 20,356 degrees in the 2019-2020 academic year, up from the 17,127 degrees awarded in 2010-2011. Institutions like Milligan University were among those that witnessed an increase in degrees awarded and enrollment.

At Milligan’s May 2020 commencement ceremony, the university recognized 241 graduates, up 20 from the previous year. The 2020 class included the first graduates with bachelor’s degrees in engineering and master’s degrees in physician assistant studies and humanities.

This fall, Milligan maintained a 93% overall student retention and 81% freshman-to-sophomore retention rate, and graduate students comprised 30% of total enrollment.

Milligan University broke enrollment records this year, according to the association.

Milligan enrolled 1,347 students this fall, surpassing the previous record set last fall by 12 students. Last year’s record marked the first time in the university’s 150-year history where student enrollment surpassed 1,300.

Milligan President Bill Greer said he’s been pleased to see such growth, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout the past several months, we prepared for the real possibility of a decrease in enrollment, a decrease that most experts in higher education expected to occur,” Greer said. “Thanks to the hard work of every single person at Milligan, we managed to keep enrollment and finances stable.”

Tusculum University’s graduation numbers fluctuated during the past 10 years, which officials attribute to the cyclical nature of higher education and periodic academic schedule adjustments.

Tusculum awarded 470 degrees during the 2019-20 school year compared to 543 in the 2018-19 academic year and 486 in the 2017-18 academic year. Tusculum officials did not provide numbers for their fall 2020 enrollment, but enrollment in 2019 stood at 1,717 compared to 1,739 in 2018.

While the pandemic has created some challenges for institutions across the state and country, President Scott Hummel said the university continues to produce exceptional graduates.

“We strongly commend our faculty, staff and students for their excellent work to adjust to unique circumstances presented by the coronavirus since March,” he said. “In spite of that unprecedented situation, about 350 May and summer graduates were recognized in the August virtual graduation.

“We look forward to a strong graduation ceremony for the fall semester.”