JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After two of the last three years went by without a tuition increase and Tennessee schools saw historic secondary education investments from the state, East Tennessee State University (ETSU) officials are celebrating one of best times to apply to their institution in recent memory.

The announcement, which was part of a Monday evening press release, shows optimism amid significant inflation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year’s prices from gas to eggs has exacerbated everyone’s concerns about finances,” Kristen Wright, associate director of ETSU undergraduate admissions, said. “That’s always been a concern, but I think even more so now it is really a concern of family and students.”

To offset the cost of an education in the region, the ETSU board of trustees voted to keep tuition the same in the 2022-23 school year. Compared to the rising costs of most products and services, a tuition that remains stable is a rare find.

“The commitment to not raise tuition, it’s ETSU’s commitment to the region,” Wright said. “It’s ETSU’s commitment to access to education because we know that students coming in and studying something that they’re passionate about and being credentialed to work well in our community is the best thing for improving the quality of life in our region here.”

The new affordability comes from a significant increase in HOPE Scholarship funds, with a $1,000 (28.5%) increase for freshmen and sophomores and a $1,200 (26.6%) increase for juniors and seniors. ETSU officials said the increase is the program’s largest since its inception in 2004.

To capitalize on the new opportunity, Wright said the school is prepared to consult with anyone interested in their programs for free.

“We want them to explore all possibilities,” Wright said. “A 4-year college isn’t for everyone and we know that our state offers so many options for continuing education and want our students in the region to consider what is best for them, their goals and their family but we truly believe that our staff and my recruiters can help students understand their options.”

ETSU is hoping to reach last-minute enrollers — those who might be holding out to see if they can actually afford to attend this fall.

“We are specialists, we love to work with last-minute students,” Wright said. “Because we think that’s really where our staff and our customer service shines.”

The first step for any students who want to enroll is the actual application to ETSU, Wright said. To make it easier, the application fee has been waived for anyone who enters FALL22 into their online application form before classes start.