ETSU president gives ‘State of University Address’ citing university improvement and concerns over enrollment in area colleges


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — East Tennessee State University has seen a drop in enrollment this year due to the pandemic.

University President Dr. Brian Noland faced an empty auditorium as he gave the annual university address virtually.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun found out the president also released new information about the future of ETSU football.

The university has taken steps to adapt during the pandemic. Noland said that even though the university has seen a drop in student enrollment, it has also seen its highest fall-to-fall retention rate in the school’s history, this year.

ETSU is looking at how the university will operate post-COVID, hoping to the campus can frame a vision for the region and not just ETSU.

“Our enrollment with the fall is within our budgeting competence intervals. We’re down a little bit at the freshman levels, as well as respect to our international students. Graduate enrollments are relatively constant but the good news takeaway is, we are where we need to be in terms of budget,” Noland said.

This year, student enrollment dropped by 447 students in total. While this number doesn’t seem like a big impact on campus, Noland said the dwindling numbers among area community colleges is concerning.

“It impacts ETSU because every year, we see a number of students who started at Northeast State, who took advantage of Tennessee Promise, later transferred to our university to complete their education to receive a bachelor’s degree,” Noland said. “If there are fewer students at Northeast [State], that means one year from now, or two years from now, there’s the potential that there will be fewer students transferring on to our institution and other institutions all across the state.”

He commended students on campus for modeling the university’s core values and keeping COVID-19 cases low on campus.

“As of this morning, 15 positive cases and 18 students in quarantine,” Noland said.

Bucs fans will not have to wait much longer as the topic of ETSU football is set to be revisited next week.

Noland said: “Hopefully, we’ll be able to finalize a couple of questions that are lingering around football and the league can announce the season for the spring. Anticipate that will start some point early January, late February. We’ll wrap-up competition at the beginning of April so that our teams will be ready for the playoffs.”

Noland said next week, the university council will meet to discuss the plans for the spring semester in terms of operating during the pandemic. He said it will look a lot like this fall.

The full address can be found here:

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