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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Tennessee Tech Considers the Collegiate Way

— By an accident of history in the early twentieth century the residential college idea in the United States came to be associated with wealthy private universities, and many people today still think the collegiate model can’t be applied to less-wealthy public universities. That view is incorrect. The residential college idea has nothing to do with either wealth or age, but is instead a particular way of arranging the existing resources of an institution, no matter how extensive or limited those resources may be.

I’m always pleased when I find another public university that understands this clearly, and so I’m delighted to report this week that Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, a public campus of about 8000 students, is looking into the creation of a residential college system. One of their models is Murray State University in Kentucky, which established a complete residential college system twelve years ago. A story in today’s edition of Murray State’s student newspaper fills us in on the details.

Administrators recommend residential college system

Tennessee Tech University hosted a forum of representatives from campuses including Murray State and discussed the impact of residential college programs on student life Sept. 18.

“Tennessee Tech kept telling us that when they started looking at ways to improve retention and graduation, what kept popping out of all the statistics was Murray State’s increased numbers,” Ann Landini, Chair of the Council of College Heads said. “Tennessee Tech and Murray State are similar in size, both OVC schools and both serve a geographic area of a state as well as surrounding states.”

With no decisions yet, Jack Armistead, president for Academic Affairs at Tennessee Tech University, said he and others will act based on campus feedback from the forum.

“We received evaluation forms from many in attendance, but don’t really know what the response is yet,” Armistead said. “Anecdotally, we have that there is a lot of positive feeling about moving this direction.”

Armistead said the new system would transform into one of learning units.

“More activities would connect students and faculty outside the classroom and we would connect a number of our constituencies with the residential colleges who presently don’t have any real connection with the lives of the students outside the classroom,” Armistead said.

Amanda Moss, senior from Hopkinsville, Ky., said the residential colleges system encourages community among students who might not otherwise view one another as friends.

“When people move out of the dorms and into houses off campus, they almost always know the person or persons they will room with,” Moss said. “Compare that with the thrill of sharing a room with an absolute stranger you have never talked to and know nothing about. Needless to say, residential colleges broadened horizons.”

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021