‘This is a great time to go to college’ | Local colleges look for enrollment boost for fall of 2021

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Colleges around the country and in Northeast Tennessee are trying to appeal to potential students for the upcoming school year. This comes after many colleges saw a drop in enrollment during the 2020-2021 school year.

According to Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment dropped more than 2 percent last fall. While Milligan University and ETSU say they didn’t see a major drop in enrollment, both college’s admission offices said they did see a decrease.

While some colleges are seeing an increase again this year, others are struggling due to limited recruiting.

“We took a more personalized approach. I think that’s one thing COVID has provided us, that opportunity to step back and say ‘We still need to do this, but it needs to be done safely’ and it gives us an opportunity to be more one-on-one with folks,” said ETSU’s Admissions Director Heather Levesque. “We also did what we internally called ‘coffee visits,’ and we would meet students and their families at Panera or at a hotel and had a cup of coffee and just talked to them that way.”

“We knew that fall of ’21 would actually be harder than fall of ’20, because we’ve gone an entire year without really being able to recruit in all the normal ways that colleges and universities recruit,” said Dr. Lee Harrison, Milligan University Vice President for Marketing and Management.

College admission directors said this is an excellent year to go off to college as it will really give students a much-needed change after a year of distance learning and social distancing.

“This is a great time to go to college. I think it’s going to be an opportunity for students who have been living in a really stressful, kind of lonely-ish environment for the past year to come and feel like that is not the case anymore,” said Levesque.

“We’re hoping as we go into fall of ’21, we’ll be monitoring CDC guidelines, but we’re hoping that by fall, vaccinations and everything else, that things will be definitely back to a little bit more normal and back to the more normal college experience,” said Harrison.

College leaders also said there are benefits to jumping right into a four-year degree rather than waiting or heading to community college first.

“It typically means they’re going to take less time to finish their degree, and that is a cost savings and that’s a time savings, and when you have a time savings, you also have a potential increase in salary because you can immediately get into the workforce and start earning an income,” Harrison said.

They also pointed to financial aid options.

“ETSU Promise Plus became a thing last year and that will continue to be a thing this year. Full-time, first-time students who are freshmen that are Tennessee Hope eligible, as well as maximum Pell-eligible as will [get] our ETSU Free Tuition, which is also Hope plus the TSAA grant. So students who qualify for those two also will receive tuition at ETSU,” said Levesque.

Levesque said she has seen many students wait to apply or wait to finish their applications, which she says could be the result of apprehension caused by 2020’s struggles.

ETSU and Milligan are still both accepting applications for the fall semester on a rolling basis.

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