News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Murray State fall enrollment numbers up slightly from 2021

 The Murray State University Board of Regents tours Wrather Hall, which is currently undergoing renovations, during its Friday meeting. The board also toured the newly renovated Lovett Auditorium.
Derek Operle
The Murray State University Board of Regents tours Wrather Hall, which is currently undergoing renovations, during its Friday meeting. The board also toured the newly renovated Lovett Auditorium.

School officials announced enrollment is up 2.3% overall at Murray State University during Friday’s board of regents meeting, despite the downward trends impacting many universities nationwide.

Don Robertson, the vice president of student affairs and enrollment management for the school, and his team detailed the latest student statistics for the institution.

“We're at a good place with enrollment. We’re up in undergraduate students, we’re up in graduate students, we’re up in our Racer Academy students,” Robertson said. “What’s really exciting is we are up significantly in our international students. So we're starting to see more international students back on campus. So a lot of real positives are occurring right now because of enrollment.”

Renee Fister, MSU’s executive director for strategic enrollment management and director of institutional effectiveness, broke down the semester’s numbers, calling it a “huge win” for the school.

Fister said the school was serving fewer students from its 18-county core service area and the state of Kentucky, but she attributed that to a decrease in the number of graduates coming out of larger regional high schools — a trend that has impacted multiple states’ education systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Total student retention went up about 2.7%, while credit hours for the semester are down 1%.

MSU president Bob Jackson also noted that there are 10% fewer college students on the national level, down 1.3 million from 2020.

“It is a tough recruiting environment right now because the number of high school graduates are decreasing,” Robertson said. “Some of our major schools had smaller senior classes this past year, but it really has been a concerted university effort.”

Robertson says this hard-fought success is the result of a cooperative effort between university departments, personalized recruiting and innovative, careful prioritization of areas in the region.

“We work very closely with academic affairs, we've got a strong communication plan and where we reach out to students, really personalize recruitment to the student, we also spend a lot of time talking with parents,” he said. “We know exactly where we are at any point and we have goals for all the various schools and the counties. We monitor that so we know where to spend more time, where we're doing well and where we need to add more initiatives.”

Regent Tom Waldrop Jr. praised Robertson and his team for their efforts.

“When people ask me how Murray State’s doing and I tell them about the headwinds that we face and the fact that our enrollment is up despite all the headwinds, they ask me, ‘How are you doing it?’ And I finally found the right answer: hard work … good old-fashioned shoe leather,” he said.

The board also approved the first reading of its NIL Policy, which Jackson called the “guardrails the school operates under” when it comes to the new state regulations regarding student-athletes now being able to make money off their name, image and likeness after a 2021 executive order from Gov. Andy Beshear.

Newly appointed MSU athletics director Nico Yantko is happy the school is taking steps to put “some really good pillars in place” for NIL preparedness.

“Name, image and likeness has certainly evolved our landscape here in higher education and in particular, college athletics,” the former Racer quarterback said. “The key is going to be continuing to educate ourselves, continue to engage our student athletes and community and find out the best ways to monitor because it's something that can be a really good thing for our student athletes. We just want to make sure we're putting the appropriate resources behind it.”

Rob Miller, the general counsel for the university, described it as “a short policy designed to implement the statutory requirements while benefiting our student-athletes and helping the department of athletics as they apply these new rules.”

“It’s our hope and expectation that this policy will allow athletics to move forward confidently and with assurance that it’s in compliance with the new state law,” he said.

The content of the policy was not released with the Board of Regents’ publicly available materials. WKMS has requested a copy from the university.

Yantko said “some of the biggest components to get [the university’s] arms around” are when and where staff can be involved with NIL agreements.

“This is never going to be a pay-for-play type of model here within this policy,” he said. “It's making sure that we're able to educate our student athletes and prospective NIL sponsors. This is more about creating avenues and NIL preparedness opportunities to engage our business community and to get those folks involved with our student athletes.”

In other board happenings:

  • Judge David Buckingham swore in Ellie McGowan as the new student regent.
  • The regents toured the newly renovated Lovett Auditorium and the still-under-construction Wrather Hall. 
  • The board approved a partnership with Beyond Owners Group for the campus public-private partnership advancement.
  • Communications and marketing staff looked ahead to fall’s homecoming events, many of which will have a centennial twist in honor of the university’s 100th anniversary, including Taste of the Arts, a Golden Reunion for the class of 1972, a parade, the deduction of the Lovett Auditorium Trustees Hall, the National Pan-Hellenic Council Plaza dedication, Tent City, a football game against Tennessee State University and a 1920s-themed Presidential Gala. 
  • Murray State University Police Chief Jeff Gentry released some statistics for the year, including that mental health and welfare checks for the department are up 53%. 

Friday’s board of regents meeting can be streamed in its entirety below:

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
Related Content