Tuesday, however, the announcement came. ETSU is leaving space near Food City on the former Kingsport Press property for the higher education center a few blocks away later this year. So less than a year after Tusculum College and the University of Tennessee left the Kingsport Center for Higher Education, ETSU decided to join the higher ed center it declined to join when KCHE opened in 2008.
“Today represents the culmination of more than five years of conversations,” ETSU President Brian Noland said, adding that the move fits with the ongoing ETSU mission to serve the people of central Appalachia, including Kingsport, where it has operated since the 1960s.
Phillips said, “Kingsport can never thank you enough for making this happen.”
ETSU brings the number of four-year schools in the center to four. ETSU has been at the University Center in Allandale since the 1960s, and a few years ago Johnson City-based ETSU opened another location near Food City near the site of the former Kingsport Press. The Higher Education Commission, city and ETSU have been working since the fall of 2016 on the matter, which is to become official July 1. However, Mayor John Clark said the dream dates back to 1999, when what became the Academic Village grew out of an economic summit organized by former Mayor Jeanette Blazier.
The move will leave KCHE, in addition to ETSU, 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. UT was with the KCHE effort from the beginning, in 2008, while Tusculum and Milligan joined in 2013.Carson-Newman University also was there at the beginning but later pulled out.
“We can only be as strong as our partnership with Northeast State,” Noland said of the school that provides the first two years of instruction at the center, feeding students into the four-year schools.
Kingsport Times-News Publisher Emeritus Keith Wilson made the motion for the Higher Education Center Commission to approve the ETSU agreement. Phillips said he and Wilson made many drives to Johnson City over the years in an effort to get ETSU into the center. After that unanimous approval, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen convened in a called meeting and approved the agreement 7-0.
“It’s a dream come true, obviously,” Blazier said. “The concept Keith and Dr. (Bill) Locke, (then-Northeast president) brought forward was the one that just took hold and moved forward.”
Rick Osborne, dean of the College of Continuing Studies, said ETSU will remain at the Allandale facility, also used by the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, and move from the space near Food City to the higher ed center by July 1. He said the school has about 400 students served by each location.
City Manager Jeff Fleming said the news has special meaning for Assistant City Manager Chris McCart, a “Buc from a pup” who is a second-generation ETSU graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from ETSU. “It’s going to complement our existing member institutions,” McCart said.
Osborne said program offerings in Kingsport include an accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing and undergraduate social work degree, along with business and education degrees. The higher ed center offerings will focus on upper division and graduate courses, while Allandale will offer first- and second-year classes, many for Hawkins County students.
John Williams is chairman of the Higher Education Commission appointed about four years ago by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to oversee the KCHE, a job originally done by a consortium of KCHE schools.