ETSU looks to increase flatlining enrollment as demographic decrease looms


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University has challenges ahead.

During the university’s Board of Trustees meeting Friday, one common theme threaded through each discussion – enrollment.

The shrinking landscape

During his report at the end of the meeting, ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland pointed out changing demographics expected in the next decade across the country.

By 2030, he said in reference to research by labor economist Nathan Grawe, the future looks a little shaky due to a “dramatic drop” in birth rates beginning in 2008.

He continued that things look “a little bit better” for our region for the moment, but that’s not the case elsewhere in the country.

“For those of you who have colleagues in places such as West Virginia where they are maybe seven years ahead of us in the demographic decline, they’re looking at college closures, college consolidations and college mergers,” Noland said. “This is what’s on our landscape.

“You all have asked me what keeps me up at night, I told you my answer is enrollment, enrollment, enrollment. ”

The demographics are not only shrinking – they’re changing, too. Noland pointed to a map showing the demographics of students pursuing post-secondary education in the future.

“You see all across the country white, non-Hispanic numbers are dropping and there will be fewer students of that demographic seeking access to post-secondary education than there is now,” he said. “Growth will be will be in Hispanic and Latino students and Asian and Pacific Islanders.”

Noland said the university will be looking to seek accreditation through the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity accreditation, which Noland called the “gold standard for equity and diversity.”

“There’s not any one thing you can do all at once, this is slow and steady progress toward the goal that is identified in our master plan, which is national recognition at the highest level for our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Triumphs and goals

Noland said after the board’s meeting on Friday that short-term goals for increasing enrollment lie on marketing the university across the state.

Noland emphasized the importance of “telling ETSU’s story,” and highlighting the university’s strengths.

“We’ve got to do a better job of telling the people who are at the university and the people in this community the level of excellence that we have here, that’s going to help grow enrollment, and pushing that out across the state,” he said.

He added that the university is watching the Quillen College of Medicine, particularly in the pediatric program.

“Right now there’s one pediatric trauma surgeon who serves the needs of everyone from Abingdon all the way down to Greeneville,” Noland said. “What this would do is allow us to have three. We would have proper rotations, proper coverage. That way if something did unfortunately happen to your child, you have the opportunity for that process and that surgery to be performed here rather than having to be shipped somewhere else.”

Strategic goals for the next seven years includes:

  • Having 18,000 students enrolled on campus, online or at a remote location
  • Have 3,500 out-of-state and international students enrolled
  • Have 2,000 transfer students enrolled
  • Graduate 60% of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students within six years
  • Retain 85%t of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students from fall to fall
  • Receive 12,000 freshman applications with an average ACT (score) of 24
  • Be an Insight into Diversity: Higher Education Excellence in Diversity institution
  • Receive $60 million for research and other extramural-sponsored activities
  • Receive $25 million in annual giving to ETSU
  • Have a 10% alumni giving rate
  • House 3,500 students on campus, with another 2,500 living within two miles of campus
  • Have market-salary equity for faculty, staff and graduate assistant salaries/stipends
  • Be recognized as a Chronicle Great College to Work for
  • Be a recipient of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation.

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