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ETSU Trustees reflect on enrollment success, approve out-of-state tuition pilot program

Zach Vance • Nov 10, 2017 at 11:36 PM

Friday’s East Tennessee State University Board of Trustees meeting centered around the university’s recent success in terms of increased student enrollment, revenue and retention rates.

ETSU President Brian Noland said his institution currently sits in an outstanding position, with the fall 2017 freshman class up 10 percent over last year and the retention rate of students returning from last year at 75.9 percent, the highest in ETSU history. 

“We are positioning ourselves to ensure this is something we realize year after year after year. It’s an outstanding institution with world-class academic programs, and it’s an institution that I truly think is the university that’s on the move in the state of Tennessee,” Noland said. 

But all that success hasn’t translated into contentedness. The Board of Trustees and Noland want more. 

Before members delved into the day’s agenda, Trustees Chairman Scott Niswonger reminded staff and university officials about the board’s strategic enrollment plan and its goal of reaching 18,000 students enrolled.

The official census for fall 2017 totaled 14,606 undergraduate, graduate, medical and pharmacy students. 

In its effort to stay aggressive in that pursuit, the Trustees unanimously approved a pilot program that will provide discounted rates to students living in two select out-of-state counties within 100 miles of ETSU. 

“The University’s pursuit of a strategic growth agenda has required it to pursue strategies that mitigate geographical constraints associated with its geographical location,” Dr. Bert Bach, provost and vice president of academic affairs, stated in his proposal to the Board of Trustees. 

“Two of those strategies that have been pursued successfully involve, first, discounting out-of-state tuition in defined areas and, second, developing scholarships aimed at attracting prospective students from defined areas.” 

Being so close to Virginia and North Carolina borders, ETSU already offers reduced tuition equivalent to in-state rates to students in those counties that immediately border Tennessee. 

Officials believe the pilot program will ultimately provide a better understanding of the risks and benefits associated with a large-scale out-of-state tuition discount. 

“Those out-of-state students living beyond the border counties are often in a choice desert that doesn't allow them to attend an institution like ETSU without incurring expense they sometimes view as prohibitive and/or without sacrificing program choices because they do not otherwise have access to certain programs in ETSU's inventory,” Bach stated. 

The two counties will be selected by Enrollment Services based on five criteria: admission application trends, the current and future size of the 18-to-24 year old population, competitor pricing within 100 miles, qualitative reviews from admission counselors who’ve visited the counties and counties where ETSU already has agreements or programs. 

In other news, Noland discussed initiating a complete assessment of public safety on campus, including the installation of interior door locks in every room and more cameras. 

With new Athletic Director Scott Carter at the helm, Noland also said the university will begin reviewing its Title IX compliance, which entails adding another women’s sport, although it hasn’t been identified yet.

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