This fall, UTC reached a 10-year goal of enrolling more than 10,000 students, but officials say the record-breaking numbers are a mixed blessing.
With 10,250 students currently signed up for classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, student parking spaces, seats in the dining hall and dorm rooms have become hot commodities. And the university, financially pressed by the economic downturn, has little to no money to pump into expanding infrastructure.
"It always is a challenge to make sure you are able to provide the classes and programs and the recreational opportunities that your student body needs to be successful," said UTC Chancellor Roger Brown. "The feeling on the campus is very excited. There is lots of enthusiasm and energy, and you can feel it just walking across the campus."
Dr. Brown said he expects enrollment to fluctuate slightly in the next two weeks before numbers are finalized.
If the enrollment numbers hold up, it would mean a permanent $1.5 million to UTC's bottom line, he said. While that money won't completely cover the cost of every additional student, "we'll be a lot closer," he said.
Additional money from students' fees for activities, special classes and similar items also will make up some of the difference, he added.
But reaching 10,000 in enrollment is a psychological milestone that will change the campus, he said.
"We are now at five figures, and it is a different kind of mentality," he said. "We will have a great critical mass in our programs. There will be enough enrollment in a given program so that it is robust and has lots of new thinking and enthusiasm."
But the school's growing numbers also draw mixed emotions from some students.
"I'm glad it's getting bigger," said Ryan Bean, a sophomore majoring in health and human performance . "(It) doesn't seem like any more people are here."
But some students believe the college needs to expand its size before adding more students.
"A couple of classes I wanted in filled too quickly," said Allisha Barnett, a freshman majoring in biology. "There's not enough room for them."
Ms. Barnett said the cafeteria is full every day, and she would rather sit outside to eat her lunch.
John Delaney, vice chancellor for student development, said UTC will be unveiling several new services for students this fall.
A 100,000 square-foot student recreation center that opened Tuesday has yoga and aerobic studios, a climbing wall and an indoor track. Mr. Delaney said the center will help create community among the student body.
"It will be a huge draw and a place to be seen and see people," said Mr. Delaney. "It will be a healthy gathering point."
UTC ENROLLMENT OVER TIME
Fall 1969: 2,250
Fall 1989: 7,564
Fall 1999: 8,604
Fall 2003: 8,528
Fall 2006: 8,923
Fall 2009: 10,250
The academic success center in the University Center opened this summer. The center is a "one-stop shop" for students to get career advice, take tests and get academic tutoring, he said.
While officials will be stretched this fall, UTC Provost Phil Oldham said he thinks the campus is well prepared for student demand.
Even with the academic cuts that took place this year, students have been able to get the class schedules that they want, he said. An increase in enrollment standards that went into affect this fall will begin to change dynamics on campus, said Dr. Oldham.
"We don't have the profile yet, but I think this is the strongest class in UTC history," he said.