ETSU President Brian Noland addresses the audience at the annual faculty convocation. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
Enrollment at East Tennessee State University will likely be down a couple hundred students this semester, but the school president thinks 18,000 students could attend the university by the end of the decade.
That decrease in students means about $2 million from the school budget, ETSU President Brian Noland said. But the state contributed more money to ETSU this coming school year than it has in a long time, resulting in an overall net increase to ETSU this year of around $700,000 in state funds.
“In the modern higher-education landscape, the majority of the resources utilized to run an institution come from non-state sources,” Noland said. “So our ability to do the things we do well at ETSU is predicated on enrollment.”
So the increase in state funding does not account for the money lost from the decrease in enrollment.
“So as we look to grow and diversify the institution, we’re going to look at all resources and all revenues,” Noland said. “But I’m confident that where we are, it’s just a short-term glitch and we will grow our way out of this.”
Noland was speaking to local reporters before his planned annual “state of the university” address to faculty Friday morning.
Classes get under way at ETSU on Monday morning. Around 15,000 students should attend, though final numbers will not be available for a few weeks.
“We’ll have more than 15,000 students who will begin their college experience or renew their college experience at this institution” this fall, Noland said. “They come to ETSU because of our world-class faculty. And today’s a chance to celebrate our faculty.”
Noland attributed the decline in enrollment to several things, including a decline in the amount of local high school graduates and the economy.
“We’re going to spend the better part of this fall diving in to why our enrollment’s down a little bit,” he said.
Noland said the downturn in enrollment has created what he called a temporary budget situation that resulted in a soft hiring freeze being implemented as well as a 1.5 percent budget reduction for all departments.
These and some other temporary measures should allow the university to continue to grow and reach a target enrollment of 18,000 students by the end of the decade, Noland said.
Noland said the return of ETSU football in a few years, the addition of a fine and performing arts center that should be built within a few years, beautification efforts on campus like the new quad green space currently being built and improvement of campus parking with a new 1,200-space garage scheduled to be finished in October all should contribute to continued campus enrollment.
Noland also touched upon the final report from the Committee for 125, a document that outlines a path forward for the university for the next quarter century. Work has been ongoing on this report for a year.
“It talks about investments in facilities, programs, student services, faculty salaries,” Noland said. “It sets a bold vision for the university and I’m truly excited to get the report out for everyone’s input and feedback.”
To read the report, visit etsu.edu/125.
The faculty convocation, held each year right before classes start, is also an opportunity to recognize professors for outstanding service.
Three professors Friday were given Distinguished Faculty Awards for Teaching, Research and Service.
The winners were nominated and selected by their faculty peers. Each received a medallion, a plaque and a $5,000 check provided by the ETSU Foundation.
The Distinguished Faculty Award in Teaching was presented to Travis Graves, an associate professor of art and design.
The Distinguished Faculty Award in Research went to Dr. Gregory A. Ordway, a professor of pharmacology and interim chairman for the ETSU Department of Biomedical Sciences in the James H. Quillen College of Medicine.
Benjamin Caton received the Distinguished Faculty Award in Service. He is a professor of piano and aural skills in the ETSU Department of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences.