By now students have probably heard enrollment is up at ETSU. While the exact number of students is still being determined, it is certain that the campus community has grown.

“Our preliminary census numbers indicate that we’re up about 320 students overall [since last fall], that would include graduate and undergraduate,” Director of Admissions Brian Henley said. “Our current freshman class is up about 165 students, an increase of about 8 or 9 percent.”

Henley said the increase was considered an accomplishment by Admissions.

“We went into the year hoping to maintain the enrollment as pretty much flat,” he said. “We graduated a big class this year, so we knew bringing in enough students and retaining current students to stay flat would be an accomplishment. … We sort of planned going into the year for enrollment to be kind of slack or possibly even down a little bit.”

He said there are many factors that may have contributed to enrollment, especially student engagement. Factors like the ETSU football program may have also contributed to a surge in students attending the university.

Another impact on enrollment is retention of students already at the university. More students continuing toward their degree at ETSU helps build the student population. Henley said the percentage of students returning for a second year has increased over the past years.

“If numbers stay where they are right now, we expect about 76 percent of first-year students … will be back for their sophomore year,” he said.

According to Henley, last year’s retention rates were about 71 percent.

ETSU Admissions has also worked on recruiting high school students.

“We at the admissions office have worked really hard to reach out to students in our local area as well as outside of our local area, and we’re communicating with our students as early as their sophomore year of high school,” he said. “So I think working to build that relationship earlier is paying off and showing a significant increased number of first-year students.”

In addition to building relationships with students while they are applying for college, ETSU is gaining more dual-enrollment participants.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last couple of years to increase the number of dual-enrollment high school students that we have, and this year I think that work really paid off,” Henley said. “We have about 65 more high school students taking dual-enrollment at ETSU than we had last fall, so right now [we have] over 230 students.”

By having students take college-level classes through ETSU while in high school, Henley said the university can hopefully gain them as full-time students as they further their education.

According to the ETSU Strategic Plan, the enrollment goal is 18,000 students and to retain 85 percent of first-time, full-time students by 2026.

“To do that, we’re going to continue to need to see the kind of increases that we’ve seen this year,” Henley said. “300-350 students a year. … It’s going to be a challenge, but that’s the target we’ve established.”