University announces plan to reopen – anticipates strong fall enrollment as classes resume

University SquareSenior leaders at Tennessee Wesleyan University remain optimistic for another successful fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country heavily.


The University experienced record enrollment at all levels in 2019, and Fall 2020 appears to be on the same track. As of Monday, May 18, enrollment reports highlight nearly a 19% increase for accepted first-year students. Fall registration for returning students shows a 10% increase compared to the same time last year.


Other positive factors include an increase in summer enrollment and orientation registration. The addition of the Master of Occupational Therapy and dental hygiene programs and the new Master of Arts in Teaching cohort have contributed to the increase year-over-year.


Orientation registrations, a number often used to project fall enrollment, continue to grow as the dates approach. These high numbers led to the decision to move June and July orientations online to maintain the safety of our students, faculty and staff. Moving orientations online is important as the campus prepares to reopen and welcome students in the fall.


“Our faculty and staff have been working remotely since the end of March and we are all ready to come back,” commented TWU President Dr. Harley Knowles. “To do this safely, we need time to prepare buildings and gathering spaces to ensure we follow recommendations from the CDC.”


The University’s COVID-19 task force has been developing a plan to return to campus safely. The campus reopening process includes details for classroom social distancing, dining area spacing and personal protective equipment. The school has already taken measures to acquire facemasks for all students, faculty and staff and recently received a generous donation of non-contact thermometers from healthcare system partner, Covenant Health.


“Fortunately, most of our classes have twelve or fewer students, so we can properly socially distance those classrooms. However, for larger classes, we are working on plans to reduce in-seat class density through online offerings hybridization, creating subsections for courses or using an accelerated 7-week class style,” added Dr. Knowles.


Students will also find new places to eat when they return. Additional areas around campus will open so the dining commons and Burkett’s can also maintain proper protocols. HVAC units are also being upgraded in areas where groups gather, with a significant focus on learning spaces.


Since typical indicators anticipate more students on campus in a few months, these efforts are essential to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. Knowles emphasized the fact that details with COVID-19 are changing daily, so plans must be fluid. However, campus leaders believe it is important that current and future students know TWU faculty and staff are working towards making the campus safe for their arrival in August.