JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University (ETSU) officials are making plans to keep up with demand following a record-breaking number of first-year students enrolling this fall.

2,150 first-year students enrolled at ETSU this semester. More than 100 of those students started the school year living in a hotel due to the high number of classmates and at-capacity on-campus housing.

ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said that the process to bring those students back to campus is underway. During a press conference Thursday morning, Noland said the school was preparing to renovate several facilities before the pandemic in 2020. But post-COVID, Noland said the school has seen sustained demand from students wanting to live on campus.

At present, Noland said there are plans for new residence halls on campus. He said they’ll explore converting existing buildings to residence halls or potentially finding a site for a new building.

“Our goal is to have our students here, and if there are ways that expedite that outcome, then we want to explore that to the extent that we can,” Noland said. “We’re exploring locations for the placement of the new residence hall.”

If a new residence hall is built, Noland said he wants it in the thick of campus. He said he wants to keep the density of campus culture that students need.

Several capital projects are underway or have already been completed on campus, Noland told members of the media Thursday.

Gilbreath Hall was completely renovated over the summer to include updated classroom technology and modernized spaces. A $93.6 million renovation to Brown Hall, which houses many of ETSU’s science programs, is scheduled to begin in December 2024. Lamb and Burleson Halls are both receiving upgrades.

Demolition of the current Campus Center Building is scheduled to begin in November. In its place, ETSU plans to build a new interdisciplinary Academic Building with construction set to begin in January. The projected cost of that project is $62.5 million.

Noland said with all the potential upgrades and construction, it’s an exciting time to be on campus.

“Budgets are balanced and we’re building new buildings,” Noland said. “I’ve had the honor to serve this institution for 12 falls, and I do not know if I’ve ever been as excited about the start of a fall semester as I am this one.”

ETSU welcomed 120 new faculty members this school year, 57 of whom are joining the Quillen College of Medicine. Noland said he plans to present a 4% pay increase for faculty and staff to the Board of Trustees.

“We’ll take to the board this fall recommendations around salary enhancements,” Noland said. “This will be the third consecutive year for salary enhancements and the ninth time in ten years that we’ve made investments in salary.”

Any new buildings or salary increases would need Board of Trustee approval.