ETSU President Brian Noland speaks to media on the first day of classes. (Photos by Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)
After two years of enrollment decline, East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland said the figures for the incoming freshman class look encouraging, and could signify the end of the slump for the state school in Johnson City.
In an address to local media on the first day of classes for the fall semester, the university president said the incoming class was 200 students stronger and represented a more diverse subsection of the population.
“We are moving into the start of the fall semester in very solid shape,” Noland said. “We’re particularly excited about this year’s freshmen class. Last year there were 1,842 freshmen enrolled at the institution, and this year, we are slightly north of 2,000.”
The college’s enrollment figures won’t be finalized for another two weeks, but Noland said the size increase and the increase in the number of new students taking part in orientation activities were promising.
In September of last year, the school’s finalized enrollment figures showed a drop of 400, including a decline of 200 incoming freshmen and 60 fewer undergraduate transfers.
The loss of tuition dollars drained millions from ETSU’s revenues and sent administrators searching for ways to decrease operating expenses.
Compared to last year, the university’s budget was reduced 6 percent this year, but the president credited his administration with carefully trimming the funding without enacting employee layoffs or furloughs.
“Barring some unforeseen disaster or catastrophe in the national economy, I do not foresee budget reductions this year,” Noland said. “I feel very, very good about where we are, we have a solid base going forward.”
Recognizing the uncertain nature of four-year college attendance in the next few years, the university formed a slate of committees last year to analyze and reconfigure the institution’s budget.
That process should conclude this year, Noland said, and should put ETSU in a stronger financial position than before the committees were formed.
“This is a year in which you’re not going to see a lot of things that are new,” he said, underscoring the expected completion of several long-term operations studies and fewer new program announcements. “It’s a year in which we’re going to focus on implementation ... This is a year when we need to complete some things.”
Some of the new program announcements, namely a new venue for fine and performing arts and a football stadium to house the college’s rebooted team, are still awaiting final funding commitments.
With the fundraising initiative for a new performing arts center nearly two-thirds to its $10.2 million goal, the president said he expects the local portion of the funding to be in hand before the end of the academic year.
The stadium, estimated to cost at least $18 million, is still awaiting a finalized site before design work moves ahead.
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