Stretched thin UTC adds faculty, but record-high enrollment taxes many resources

Stretched thin UTC adds faculty, but record-high enrollment taxes many resources

August 20th, 2012 by Rachel Bunn in Local Regional News

Heather Wilkerson, a sophomore at UTC, shelves books at the university library in preparation for the first day of school today.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Ken Hood, UTC's grounds crew foreman, works on the university's landscape in preparation for the first day of school.

Ken Hood, UTC's grounds crew foreman, works on...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Document: UTC master plan building use

UTC master plan building use


UTC's fall enrollment has jumped by more than 12 percent in the last two years.

Fall 2010 // Total: 10,781 // Freshman: 1,948

Fall 2011 // Total: 11,438 // Freshman: 2,186

Fall 2012* // Total: 12,100 // Freshman: 2,300


Source: UTC

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is in the middle of a growth spurt.

The university is expected to have its highest enrollment numbers ever this year, with about 12,100 students expected to begin classes today, according to Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communication and marketing at UTC.

That's a 12 percent increase since 2010.

Plans are under way to accommodate a total enrollment of about 15,000 students over the next 10 years. Right now, however, the university's enrollment is outpacing its physical growth.

"I have to admit, we are having some growing pains," Cantrell said.

By the middle of summer, many of the general education classes -- the required core curriculum at the university -- were already full, according to junior dietetics major Emily Broadrick, of Dalton, Ga.

"I transferred in, and some of the classes that I needed -- because they weren't offered at my other school or because they didn't transfer -- were already booked," she said. "Those were definitely more difficult to get."

Among the general education classes, some subjects have been harder to get into than others.

"We know that the sciences are a problem -- biology, chemistry, physics -- especially the ones that have labs," Cantrell said. "While you might be able to squeeze in a few students in other classes, in a lab setting, when you have students that need an area to work in, it becomes difficult."

The university has hired 48 new faculty members and added additional general education classes in all disciplines in order to provide classes for the influx of students, Cantrell said. UTC also has added additional advisers, tutors and other resources, he said.

Senior Hunter Helton, a biology major from Chattanooga, said the biggest problem facing campus is student parking.

"Even if you buy a general parking permit, it doesn't guarantee that you'll get a spot," she said. "You might spend 10 minutes driving around before class before you find anything."

On-campus housing is stretched especially thin.

On Thursday, freshmen moved into UTC housing, but for some, the housing is off-campus -- in the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, which will be their home while they wait for room to become available on campus. About 175 students are expected to live in the hotel for part of the semester, Cantrell said.

Broadrick and her roommates wanted to live in the UTC dorms this year but were unable to because of the demand for housing, she said.

"I know a bunch of people who were trying to get into the dorms," Broadrick said. "Some of the upperclassmen weren't able to get in and had to move off campus."

Looking ahead, the university plans to open a new library in 2013 and is renovating Bretske Hall into additional studio space for its growing art program, creating some construction zones on campus this fall.

UTC's master plan, which was recently approved by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, outlines additional areas for physical growth for the campus, as well as estimated enrollment growth for the next 10 years.

Cantrell said UTC must increase its number of classrooms and rooms in campus housing to accommodate students.

For Helton, the university's location and size were a major draw when she was choosing a school. She said she thinks other students feel the same way, which is why enrollment has been increasing.

"A lot of students are drawn to Chattanooga," Helton said. "It's a big school, but it's smaller than [the University of Tennessee in Knoxville]. There's a lot of goods things -- arts, athletically -- that draw students here. I think that the campus -- it just looks good on paper."