MTSU, Metro police give officers incentive to earn college degrees

Middle Tennessee State University and the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Training Division have reached an agreement that gives officers greater incentive to get their college degrees.

Metro Nashville officers who have been through department’s five-and-a-half month training academy can potentially receive more than a year of college credits through MTSU’s University College.Metro Nash PD logo_web

Officers can receive up to 36 to 40 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, said Dr. Peggy Carpenter, an assistant dean of University College. Once an officer enrolls, MTSU will assess the officer’s prior-learning knowledge and then create an academic plan for them to complete the degree.

Dr. Peggy Carpenter

Dr. Peggy Carpenter

“It’s a very individualized plan,” said Carpenter, pointing out University College’s role of working with adult learners and nontraditional students. “That’s what we do in University College and it works well. It’s part of that workforce development partnership to make a more educated workforce.”

Officers have the option of completing their degrees on campus, online or at satellite classes held throughout the region. Officers also would have opportunities for scholarships and other incentives.

Dr. Lance Selva, interim chair of the MTSU Department of Criminal Justice Administration, said his department has given up to six credit hours for such training for many years, but is now assisting the University College in providing such credits for liberal studies majors who minor in criminal justice.

“It’s a good, continuing collaboration between our college, our department and University College to try to expand offerings for people who might not otherwise complete a degree but have a wealth of experience,” Selva said.

MTSU WordmarkOfficers going through the Metro academy receive 900 hours of training that includes intensive study of criminal law, ethics and various aspects of criminal justice.

Metro Police Capt. Keith Stephens, director of the academy and 13-year veteran of Metro, said the MTSU agreement provides a strong incentive for officers to continue their educations at MTSU. About 160 officers a year go through the academy, he said, and Metro officers can get up to a 6 percent pay raise for getting their degree.

“For officers, it’s important to get their education, and we stress that from day one,” Stephens said. “Policing changes every single day. An educated officer is better trained and better equipped to do the job.”

MTSU plans to pursue similar partnerships in support Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which seeks to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate by 2025.

“We recognize that there are many adult learners who would love the flexibility this agreement provides,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said. “Partnerships such as this will create more paths for them to earn their degrees.”

MTSU announced a similar partnership in the spring with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that gives wastewater management workers opportunities for course credits and certifications.

For more information about MTSU University College programs, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/university-college/.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)