ETSU President Brian Noland emphasized the need for ETSU to adapt to the changing climate of university funding during his State of University Address.
Noland began the address by touching on the accomplishments made by former ETSU administrators, faculty and staff.
“The purpose of this walk down memory lane is to outline the fact that our institution has historically looked beyond the present to outline bold visions and big dreams,” Noland said. “As we look to develop our 2015-16 strategic plan, I trust that we will be as bold as our predecessors, for we must not be constrained by the uncertain winds of state and federal funding.”
Noland said the amount of revenue received by the university from state sources has significantly decreased over the past 20 years and peoples’ focus has been trained on the economic benefits received by graduates rather than the benefits institutions like ETSU have on the general population.
“As an institution we can moment this change,” Noland said. “Or we can recognize that the ground rules have been permanently repositioned and we can take dedicated steps to adjust the operating paradigm of our university to align with today’s realities.”
Noland said an essential aspect of this new dynamic is the important role private donors and the alumni association play in supporting the work of faculty and students.
As of Dec. 14, the university has raised about $7.6 million in private donations, an increase of 116 percent from the previous year.
“As we embark upon the 2015 calendar year, we are working in an environment defined by change,” Noland said. “In particular, we’re working in environments defined by the paradigm set by Complete College of Tennessee.”
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission website, the Complete College of Tennessee Act is a piece of legislation passed by the state legislature in 2010 that uses an outcomes-based formula to award money to universities.
Noland said despite the difficulty of accepting change, the university will be capable of navigating the groundwork laid by Complete College of Tennessee.
“When the G.I. Bill was introduced there were many who were concerned about what this would mean for ETSU,” Noland said. “When the community colleges were established, there were many on this campus who thought that it would be the death of four-year institutions …, but with each change in the state policy agenda, we have adjusted course. In fact, I’d say we’ve thrived.”
Noland said the conversations about Tennessee Promise — a state-run initiative designed to ensure two tuition-free years of higher education for high school graduates going to a community or technical college — are no different.
“[Tennessee] Promise means that we have to take aggressive steps to strengthen our enrollment picture,” Noland said. “It means we have to ensure that students understand the value of a university experience … because it is different from the experience of a college. Colleges transform individuals, great universities transform communities.”
Noland said in order for ETSU to develop a more robust standing in the community, the university needs to advertise the things that make it unique.
“Over the past year we’ve transformed our visual identity in an effort to enhance awareness of the the world-class education that is available here,” Noland said. “Many people have asked what the ‘E’ stands for. It’s pretty clear. It stands for excellence — excellence in everything we do.”