Should MTSU Change its Name?

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There's been a bit of discussion brewing over a recent student government vote that Murfreesboro state school MTSU, aka Middle Tennessee State University, should think about changing its name.

“It is bringing up a discussion about the name change,” said Brandon Batts, SGA president. “It wasn’t proposing a specific name change.” That said, students went on to say that MTSU should basically consider classing up the joint by calling itself University of Middle Tennessee — which has a prestige factor of 7.4, according to speculation directly off the top of my head.

“In some people’s minds, when they see ‘state university, they don’t see ‘university,’” Batts said. “By having university first, some people think that would be more prestigious.”

I suppose "those people" would include Memphis State, ahem, University of Memphis, who took the more prestigious, rebranded moniker back when I was starting college at MTSU in 1994, coincidentally. And the kid may very well be right about the semantic perception therein. But I figure we're talking about a difference in, er, degree and not in kind, if you'll pardon the pun.

Plenty of state schools (Penn State, Michigan State, UNC, for instance) offer great opportunities for a solid education. Others require vigilant seeking-out of good mentors and challenging majors. If you choose a school for its strengths and not its proximity to Party Town (or its distance from Hometown) — not to mention if you put as much or more into it as you have coming at you — you can get a good education anywhere, including MTSU. I had a number of professors there whose perspectives I still hear in my head when ethical challenges or difficult story logistics present themselves.

But I'd like to point out gently that their suggestion for a rename seems to have little regard for the nuts and bolts of what actually makes a university competitive.

Kiplinger's ranked the top 100 best values in public colleges this past February with an eye on academic quality, cost and financial aid availability, and you know where MTSU ranked on that list? Uh, it didn't. But you know who ranked 58? UT. Supporters of the name change might use that to their advantage, along with the fact that the top three schools are all "Universities of _____" — but fence-occupiers such as myself would rather see their alma mater climb their way onto that list first.

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