Middle Tennessee State University will supplement by $1,000 the Hope Lottery Scholarships of incoming students who stay on track to graduate in four years - and pay a Finish Line Scholarship to graduating seniors that will return any tuition increases over that span.
Both initiatives, which apply to students entering the university this fall, are part of the MTSU Student Success Advantage, which President Sidney A. McPhee announced in Chattanooga on Wednesday on the first leg of the six-city True Blue Tour.
This effort is part of MTSU's overall "Quest for Student Success" initiative, a series of reforms launched last year to boost graduation and retention rates through changes such as course redesigns, enhanced advising and new student data tracking software.
"The Student Success Advantage is an agreement between the university and our students: If you maintain a steady pace to graduation in four years, we'll help you along the way," McPhee said.
Under the plan, MTSU will pay $500 to students receiving the Hope scholarship after each of their first two years. Students must remain eligible for the Hope in order to get the award from MTSU.
The state recently reduced the Hope scholarship from $4,000 a year to $3,500 a year for freshmen and sophomores to help finance the Tennessee Promise, the plan announced by Gov. Bill Haslam to offer free community college to high school graduates starting in 2015.
"Our Student Success Advantage restores the $500 that freshmen and sophomores will lose with the changes in the Hope scholarship," McPhee said. "We made this a top priority, given that almost 80 percent of our students receive the Hope scholarship."
University officials point out that many students who don't stay on track to graduate in four years face financial challenges when their Hope scholarship funds are exhausted. The university is hiring more academic advisers, which will help students maximize the Student Success Advantage funds by keeping them on track to graduate on time.
Also under the plan, MTSU is creating a Finish Line Scholarship, which will be awarded at the beginning of the student's final semester. The scholarship will be equal to the amount paid by the student in tuition increases as calculated from the rate they paid in their first semester on campus.
"We don't want tuition to increase," McPhee said. "However, if it does, the net effect of our Finish Line Scholarship will hold students harmless from any increases - provided they stay on track to graduate in four years."
The Student Success Advantage also includes an adjustment, effective immediately, that scales back the minimum ACT scores required to qualify for five major scholarships guaranteed to eligible students.
And the university's Transfer Academic Scholarships also will switch from being competitively based to guaranteed for students from Tennessee's 14 community colleges.
Students must apply by Feb. 15, 2015, and meet the minimum requirements of having 45 to 105 earned hours, a 3.0 GPA for community college transfers and 3.5 GPA for all others. Students applying after Dec. 1 risk missing out on the scholarship awards.
Financial Aid Director Stephen White said guaranteed scholarships for transfer students who meet eligibility requirements "will allow us to process scholarships for this group in a more timely manner and assist a greater number of students."
Said White, "We anticipate that the outcome of the Tennessee Promise for students attending community colleges will generate a greater number of students transferring to MTSU with an associate degree beginning in fall 2017."
Major scholarships and their ACT adjustment include:
Chancellor Scholarship (from 32 to 30 ACT);
Presidential (from 29 to 28 ACT);
Academic Service (from 27 to 26 ACT);
Provost (from 26 to 25 ACT);
And valedictorian and salutatorian (from 23 to 22 ACT).
The required high school GPA remains 3.5. The guaranteed scholarship amounts range from $2,000 to $6,000 per year. For more, visit www.mtsu.edu/apply or www.mtsu.edu/financial-aid/scholarships.
Each of the scholarships requires students work 75 hours during the semester or five hours per week in a department that connects them with staff who can serve as resources and mentors.