Tusculum College and the University of Tennessee, which had a representative there but was online except for some training and professional development offerings, have left the Kingsport Center for Higher Education. Employees of both vacated offices April 30.
“We do not have a staff presence there as of the end of April,” Suzanne Richey, director of college communications for Tusculum, said Tuesday. “That is just simply due to the fact our enrollment doesn’t justify it.”
The moves leave KCHE with King University, Lincoln Memorial University and Milligan College as four-year or graduate schools and Northeast State Community College as a two-year school. The center operates with no overlap of degree offerings. Tusculum offered three undergraduate degrees, in education, business and psychology, and two master’s degrees in education. But Richey said at the end of April those five had fewer than 10 students. In addition, Tusculum tried to offer a master’s of business administration but was unable to get enough students for that cohort, Richey said.
“We will continue to serve Sullivan County, Kingsport and the Tri-Cities, just not from that physical location,” Richey said. “The majority of the students from your area have been going to Greeneville or Morristown or online.”
UT was with the KCHE effort from the beginning, in 2008, while Tusculum and Milligan joined in 2013.
“We’d like to have them stay, but we completely understand their decision,” said John Williams, chairman of the Higher Education Commission appointed about three years ago by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to oversee the KCHE, a job originally done by the consortium of KCHE schools.
Carson-Newman University started with the KCHE but later pulled out. East Tennessee State University was not initially part of the KCHE but later joined the Academic Village in an operation elsewhere downtown, near Food City, in addition to the longstanding operation at the University Center. King operates in the higher ed center and elsewhere in the city.
Katie High, vice president for academic affairs and student success for UT, said UT will continue professional development and other non-degree courses in person in Kingsport.
“Kingpsort does a lot with ETSU, and that’s a good thing,” High said. She said UT has benefited from its dealings with schools at the higher ed center, the city and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We are going to try to keep that going in a different kind of way,” High said.
High said UT helped with planning for the KCHE, which includes online and video streaming capacities, but that UT officials determined it wasn’t feasible to offer “courses on the ground” in Kingsport as it once had at the University Center.
“While we definitely hate to see these two institutions go, it’s not uncommon for facilities like this to have an ebb and flow,” Assistant City Manager Chris McCartt said Tuesday, adding that the changes will have almost no effect on 2,500 students enrolled in higher education degrees or courses downtown in the Academic Village. “As UT and Tusculum move out, we will start looking at what our options are to fill that space.” He acts as a liaison between the city and the KCHE and other Academic Village operations.
He said the first priority would be attracting new university partners, although expansion of existing ones would be considered too. The ultimate goal, he said, is to provide the best opportunities possible for students in the Kingsport area.