Tennessee college enrollment rises

College enrollment across Tennessee increased slightly this fall, with the University of Tennessee system seeing the most pronounced growth.

Overall, 1,541 more students enrolled in Tennessee’s colleges during the fall semester, bringing total enrollment to 225,885 — or 0.7% student population increase over fall 2018.

Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive director Mike Krause characterized the jump as a “shallow enrollment increase.” He said in several states surrounding Tennessee, enrollment is down.

“A slight increase in this environment, where there is declining enrollment in other states, is a positive indicator,” Krause said.

With the state increasingly focused on graduating students, Krause said to lawmakers on Thursday during a presentation that enrollment is still important for the schools the commission helps oversee.

“Our fiscal health depends on enrollment,” Krause said.

University of Tennessee system increases

The University of Tennessee campuses in Knoxville and Martin helped lead the way for the system’s 2.4% enrollment growth over last year.

The system enrolled 51,582 students this fall.

Krause attributed the three-point increase at Knoxville to the school’s focus on attracting students from out of state. The school enrolls fewer students from outside of Tennessee than some of its peers, he said.

Martin’s growth is a turnaround from previous years, Krause said, when the school was placed on accreditation probation. The school’s chancellor has taken enrollment “personally,” Krause said.

Flat enrollment elsewhere in state

Overall, locally governed institutions that include schools such as the University of Memphis and Tennessee State University saw a modest overall increase.

Enrollment increased to 86,440 among the six schools, or a 0.6% student population increase over last fall.

Both Memphis and TSU, however, saw increases. Memphis’ growth is likely attributed to its focus on education offerings, Krause said.

And Tennessee State University’s four percentage point increase in enrollment is likely driven by the school’s focus on computer coding.

Community college student population dips

The state’s community colleges enrolled 87,863 students this fall, or a 0.2% dip in total enrollment. The decrease, however, can be described as flat, Krause said.

But two schools saw significant declines.

Nashville State Community College enrollment is down almost five percentage points over last year. Dyersburg Community College also experienced a 4.6% dip in enrollment.

Krause said Nashville State is operating in an incredibly tough environment where prospective students opt to work rather than go to school. He said that is usually the case in a strong economy, where students prioritize the opportunity to earn money over further schooling.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jason Gonzales

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org


Published October 18, 2019