By Olivia Jones
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
Midway University has its largest incoming class, giving it a 14.5 percent increase enrollment from last fall. This fall’s enrollment is 1,194, up from 1,043.
The university has new graduate-level academic programs and recruits from closed St. Catharine College, but the biggest factor appears to be its first admission of men as resident undergraduates.
In May 2016, Midway’s Board of Trustees made the school fully coeducational. Of the 151 new students, 23 percent are men.
The admission of male undergraduates also meant the establishment of men’s athletic programs, and that was spurred by the closing of Saint Catharine, a Roman Catholic college near Springfield.
In June, Midway University signed agreements with three St. Catharine College coaches that brought not only the coaches, but some of their players for men’s baseball, basketball and soccer teams.
Non-athletics students are also transferring from St. Catharine to Midway; the university is one the college’s official “teach-out” schools, a designation that provides an easier transfer of credits and and waives admission fees.
"This summer has been an exciting, and extremely busy, time on campus," Midway University President Dr. John Marsden said in a Sept. 12 press release, adding that the school's motto this years seems to be "It's a new day at Midway."
It is a new day, compared to 2013 when the school suffered an 18 percent enrollment decrease, dropping to 1,362 from 1,567 the fall before and starting a three-year decline.
The first big drop affected the school’s finances, which had already been hit when the trustees abandoned plans for a pharmacy school that had already cost millions and led to the resignation of the previous president.
The school relies heavily on tuition for its revenue, and cut 12 of the 54 faculty positions. It also suspended making matching contributions to employee retirement accounts. Ellen Gregory, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications, said the matching resumed “within the last budget year.”
Seven of the laid-off teachers filed a lawsuit against the school in 2014, challenging the terminations on the basis of “breach of contract and age discrimination.” Gregory said the lawsuits are still pending.
Enrollment dropped another 16.3 percent in Fall 2014, to 1,140, and another 8.5 percent last fall, to 1,140. Thus, this year’s figures represent a major turnaround.
“Midway has always been an institution that has made changes as needed,” Marsden said in the news release.
The school said enrollment in traditional undergraduate programs (formerly the Women's College) is 432 students, 238 of whom are new to Midway, either first-year or transfers, making the largest incoming class in the history of the institution.
Out-of-state students are 22.7 percent of the enrollment, “and nearly 10 percent of the student body is made up of international students from 10 countries,” the college said in its news release.
The school said graduate student enrollment is at an all-time high at 189 students enrolled in the master of business administration, master of education and master of science in nursing programs.
“The increase in our graduate enrollment is significant,” Marsden said. “We have added additional concentrations in the MBA program, started a new MSN program this fall and our M.Ed. program is the most affordable in the state."