MTSU-Columbia State presidents' handshake
Presidents Janet Smith, left, of Columbia State Community College and Sidney A. McPhee of Middle Tennessee State University shake hands after signing an “MTSU Promise to Columbia State”

Middle Tennessee State University signed an agreement Wednesday (Feb. 6) to extend the MTSU Promise to Columbia State Community College, the fifth such pathway established for students with associate degrees to move seamlessly to the four-year university.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Columbia State President Janet Smith signed the documents in the MTSU Student Union Ballroom.

MTSU is No. 1 in the state in transfer students and is the top institution using the reverse transfer process. Columbia State is the second-leading transfer feeder school for MTSU.

The signing comes nine days from MTSU’s Feb. 15 deadline for the transfer guaranteed scholarship — $3,000 per year for those who meet qualifications.

Columbia State, whose main campus is in Columbia, Tennessee, plus five satellite campuses and an online e-Campus, is the fifth community college to join the MTSU Promise program, where the university pledges support to help students at partner schools complete their associate degree, then move forward in seeking a four-year degree.

McPhee signed agreements last year with Motlow State, Cleveland State, Southwest Tennessee (Memphis) and Dyersburg State. MTSU staff and recruiters are currently visiting colleges as part of the MTSU Promise Tour to recruit prospective transfer students.

“This is an opportunity to build and strengthen our relationship with a great community college,” McPhee said. “This agreement will help their students and ours, too. They can transfer and focus on their education by having all the obstacles out of the way.”

Smith said she looks forward to renewing the partnership with MTSU, saying “the majority of our students transfer to MTSU and our faculty look forward to coming to MTSU and discussing curriculum with their faculty.”

“This is all about student success and finding ways to work together,” Smith added. “Our students do well here and we’re very proud of Columbia State graduates.”

The agreement calls for Columbia State to share with MTSU directory information of the college’s students so they are included in tailored communications of emails and hard-copy mailings that support the process of planning for the bachelor’s degree after successful completion of the associate degree.

Also, the agreement says Columbia State students who agree to participate in the MTSU Promise will sign a “reverse transfer” agreement, meaning if they fail to complete their associate degrees prior to transfer, they would automatically receive their associate degree from Columbia State once sufficient credits have been completed at MTSU.

Through its existing Guaranteed Transfer Scholarship Program, MTSU will provide aid for Columbia State students who transfer to MTSU in the amount of $3,000 per year for two years, or a maximum of four semesters, based on achievement of a 3.0 GPA.

Students transferring to MTSU will not be eligible to apply to receive the Guaranteed Transfer Scholarship until after completing 45 credit hours at Columbia State.

Deb Sells, MTSU’s vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services, said the MTSU Promise is a program where Columbia State and other community college students can begin to consider their bachelor’s degree as they begin their associate degree.

“They can be successful at their community college and then successfully complete their bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Sells said the application deadline annually is Feb. 15, which means the majority of participating Columbia State students will have completed 60 credits before they transfer.

MTSU will also guarantee to such students that if they complete 60 credits with a 3.0 GPA at Columbia State, they will be guaranteed admission and a scholarship to attend MTSU for their last two years of study, Sells said.

Smith told the group her nephew, Mat Smith, is a senior computer science major at MTSU. The Dickson, Tennessee, native transferred from Columbia State, where he earned a general transfer associate of science degree.

Provost Mark Byrnes and all of the MTSU deans attended the signing, which was followed by a luncheon.

In addition to Smith, other key Columbia State administrators joining her included Dearl Lampley, vice president of the Williamson Campus and external service; Sissy Holt, VP of student affairs; and Mary Lou D’Allegro, VP of academic affairs.

Columbia State’s other campuses are in Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg, Clifton and Spring Hill. To learn more, visit https://new.columbiastate.edu/home online.

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