JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — All full-time East Tennessee State University (ETSU) workers will make at least $13.65 an hour after ETSU Trustees approved the largest employee pay increase in the university’s modern history Friday. Trustees also approved a new five-year contract for President Brian Noland, who has led ETSU since 2012.

“I have never been more excited than I am right now about the future of this institution,” Noland said in a news release. Noland thanked the university community, leadership and community partners.

“Everything we have accomplished, we have done together. This is an institution that puts people first, and it is a truly remarkable place to be.”

The current minimum starting hourly wage for ETSU employees is $11.44, but the hike to $13.65 is retroactive to Nov. 1. Starting wages at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine and Gatton College of Pharmacy will be at least $15 an hour.

Existing employees all will receive a 4.5% pay increase as well, capped at $7,500 per person, meaning anyone making less than $166.000 will get the full percentage raise.

ETSU Board of Trustees Chair Linda Latimer called Noland “a forward-thinking leader and an ardent advocate for our students and our communities,” adding that he had “the rare gift of being both innovative and pragmatic.”

ETSU set a record this fall with 2,150 first-year students and also has its largest number of graduate students ever. After Friday’s Trustees meeting, Noland said he expects further growth.

“Overall, enrollment still has some room for improvement because we’re moving through the tail end of the impacts of COVID,” he said. “But as we look forward to the future, I think the future of this university is extremely bright.”

Noland said that the school is exploring the option of repurposing current buildings on campus into residence hall to meet the demand of incoming students. He said that the school would look to build a brand new residence hall if repurposing an older building does not meet demand.

“All early indicators are we’ll be at full capacity for the fall,” Noland said. “This is a good problem to have, but it’s a problem that the board has challenged us to plan for.”