For the first time since approving the purchase of the Millennium Centre at their last meeting in September, the ETSU Board of Trustees hosted their quarterly meeting in the building on Friday, Nov. 16.
During the meeting, the board outlined goals to grow enrollment at ETSU, budget concerns, factors for tuition increases and recognized ETSU faculty member Bethany Flora, as she prepares to leave ETSU and take the presidency of Northeast State Community College.
ETSU President Brian Noland discussed ETSU enrollment, currently at roughly 14,600, and his goals to grow that number to 18,000 by 2026, including 3,500 out-of-state and international students, as well as 2,000 transfer students.
Noland believes the university has the capacity to handle this enrollment increase.
“We have ample faculty, we’re bringing new buildings online and we have the capacity to reach 18,000 students; it’s just working the plan to get us there,” Noland said.
He also outlined goals to reach retention and graduation rates of 85 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Currently, graduation and retention rates are improving, but still fall well short of those goals. ETSU’s retention rate sits at 72 percent, while graduation rates are well behind at 42.9 percent.
Also discussed by the board, was the potential of a new humanities building for ETSU. According to Noland, a new humanities building for ETSU is currently fifth on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s funding recommendations and carries a projected price tag of $71 million.
“Students are investing in education, and you want to ensure not only are you being taught by world-class faculty, but that instruction is happening in a world-class environment,” he said. “We want facilities that are on-par with those of the institutions that we’re competing against.”
President Noland also mentioned how he believes the university needs to fill space surrounding ETSU and to connect more with downtown Johnson City.
“You’ll probably see us have a presence in that midpoint between campus and downtown. I firmly believe we can only grow and be as strong as downtown because students are coming to us and want to go downtown and shop, eat and have other amenities, and right now there’s a pretty big gap,” he said.
The board is also expected to pass a tuition increase below the 2.5 percent max during a future meeting in April 2019. Despite this, ETSU’s cost of attendance will still fall below the state average of $9,380 per semester.