Milligan College starts classes; plans uses of $2 million grant


Photo by Dave Boyd
Milligan College campus is alive with faculty and students since classes began last Wednesday.
By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
ljenkins@starhq.com
Late night study groups, crazy amounts of coffee and back-breaking supplies of books have arrived on the Milligan College campus once again as students and faculty started classes on Aug. 20.
With the beginning of a new school year, faculty, staff and students are excited to see how a Lilly Endowment grant of over $2 million will benefit the campus and whether or not the hard work of building up enrollment and retention rates is actually paying off.
Last spring, the college was awarded the Lilly grant for over $2 million for mission-centered initiatives. On Sept. 2, the college will announce new programs to fulfill the college's mission statement of "honor God by educating men and women to be servant leaders."
"At Milligan, we talk a lot about servant leadership and helping our students determine their vocational calling as servant leaders. It is part of our mission, and it drives everything we do as we educate and prepare our students for life," Milligan President Donald R. Jeanes said in a released statement about the grant.
Part of the grant money will be used to create new honors scholarships, campus life programs, spiritual life activities, curriculum enhancements, additional career counseling and leadership and training opportunities.
"It's all about serving our students better and educating them in all aspects of life. We want to be student-centered in everything we do," Jeanes said. "That's the only way we can successfully fulfill our mission and prepare a new generation of servant leaders to make a difference in this world - to 'change lives and shape culture,' as our vision statement says."
Leslie Glover, director of student success, was able to report the highest freshmen retention rate in Milligan's history for the past two years.
Milligan is home for almost nine months of the year to over 900 students from 34 states and nine countries. The average national rate for retaining freshmen students can vary from 50 to 70 percent. Milligan's rate for the past two years has been 72 percent, and, this year, the college's preliminary retention results are approximately 80 percent.
Vice President for Enrollment Management David Mee said that under the direction of Glover, "Milligan's Student Success Program has been a primary factor in the college's tremendous progress in freshmen retention. The mentoring program in particular places every freshman in a small group that features faculty/staff peer leadership throughout the transition period (first year of college)." Mee added that since the college always seeks to improve academic programs, facilities and social opportunities, student satisfaction is growing.
Final figures for fall 2003 enrollment cannot be verified until two weeks after the first day of classes, but preliminary results show that total student enrollment is on par with last year, according to Mee. He also reported that freshmen enrollment has increased by approximately 10 percent. In the fall 2002, overall enrollment was 843 students, and 182 of them were freshmen.
Mee reported that traditional undergraduate enrollment has been steady for the past two years, but graduate and adult degree program enrollment has fluctuated. In 2002, officials considered stopping the Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy program unless enrollment and prospective interest were raised.
To help this trend Mee said, "We made some adjustments to the way we approach graduate and adult degree completion student recruitment, including an expanded effort to how these programs are promoted in the region. The MSOT and Master of Education programs, for example, should show marked growth over 2002. While Milligan attracts students from nearly 40 states every year, there is still a tremendous opportunity for us to reach more students in the Tri-Cities and northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia region."
One obstacle college officials face in recruiting efforts is convincing prospective students that Milligan College can be affordable. Mee stated that more than 92 percent of students at the college receive some form of financial aid or merit scholarships and that the actual net cost of attending Milligan may be less than expected.
As the new school year gets freshly underway, faculty and staff remain hopeful for the future. "Increasing enrollment takes time, but we are committed to seeing the college provide a strong liberal arts education within a clearly Christian context to even more students over the next few years," said Mee.