On Friday Chairman Scott Niswonger called to order the fourth ETSU Board of Trustees meeting in the East Tennessee room in the Culp Center. Niswonger began the meeting by spotlighting several issues that remained the center of discussion throughout the entire meeting, but the main point of interest was the increase in student enrollment.
“First is our enrollment. I’d like to commend the staff for their work in realizing significant increases in the size of our freshmen class for 2017 academic year. This fall 2050 freshmen began their educational journey at ETSU which represents an increase of 10 percent over the past year,” said Niswonger.
Not only was freshmen student enrollment significantly higher, but the average high school GPA for freshmen was 3.5 this year, and the fall to fall retention rate was over 75 percent, the highest in university history.
The board heard from the finance committee and learned that the increase in student enrollment contributed to a $7,375,800 increase in revenue. While revenue did increase over $7 million, total expenditures increased over $15.5 million for the university. The committee explained that the increase in expenditures was due to a number of “carry forward fees” which are accounted for during the month of October.
Another key item discussed at the meeting was the merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health Systems.
“Since our September meeting, there has been considerable action on behalf of staff as well as trustees to insure the realization of the MSHA and Wellmont merger,” said Niswonger. “One of the byproducts of this merger will be the investment in medical residencies and continued research in population health.”
Also, Niswonger urged the board to consider to make preparations for the addition of new women’s athletics programs and challenged President Noland to review the athletic department’s strategic plan and provide a report to the trustees in the summer 2018 meeting.
Student body Vice President Nathan Farnor brought attention to the academic calendar and posed questions regarding the fall break schedule for 2018. “Over the past few weeks, several faculty, staff and students have shown some concerns specifically regarding the calendar around the fall break decision,” said Farnor.
“This is the only question that has been raised to me about the calendar and the process has been inclusive and I’ve not received any concerns to date around the breaks and where they fall” said Noland.
Noland explained that the calendar was designed by several committees and a decision was made based on what best aligned with the needs of East Tennessee State University. A discussion about the calendar was opened up to the board, but no changes were made for 2018.