UTC is growing

UTC is growing

September 12th, 2011 in Opinion Times

The numbers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are up almost across the board this year. The record enrollment of full-time students this semester did create a few minor but expected difficulties on campus, but they seem to have been resolved - at least in the short term - quickly and with little fanfare.

The number of undergraduate students increased to 9,891 this year from 9,229 last year. There are 2,171 first-time freshmen, compared to 1,948 in 2010, and the number of new transfer students rose to 787 this year from 706 last year. The number of graduate students this year is 1,547, a decline of five from last year. Overall, there are 11,438 students enrolled this year compared to 10,781 last year.

The rising enrollment has required the university to provide additional teachers and class time and more housing and parking to serve the needs of the expanded population. UTC appears to have met those immediate needs.

University administrators have added additional faculty - some full time, some lecturers and some adjunct - to meet the demand for more classes. UTC also has expanded the class schedule. It now offers more classes earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon . That eases the traditional 10 a.m.-2 p.m. crunch that can constrict both faculty and students.

Parking and housing remain issues, but that is endemic on most campuses. UTC added more than 250 parking spaces for the fall semester and has extended operating hours for the CARTA shuttle that connects the campus to the parking lots at Engel Stadium. And while 71 students are still living in rooms at the Choo Choo downtown, that number is slowly shrinking. School officials hope that all students who want to live on campus can be housed there by the end of the current semester or the beginning of the next.

While UTC seems to have resolved its most pressing issues for the moment, long-term concerns remain. If growth continues, additional faculty, classes, housing and parking will be needed. Long-term planning to addresses those needs is under way. Faculty expansion and additional housing and parking are at the top of a long list of priorities. Long-range planners already are considering the possibility of a new residence hall and some sort of parking structure. Both would be welcome on campus.

If there is a cloud on UTC's horizon, it is that state officials are indicating that additional cuts in funding for higher education are in the offing. That's a shame. An institution that manages student growth in a positive manner merits approval and support, not a compromised budget.