Division I offers new learning opportunities for students

Students can expect positive changes across campus as UNA prepares to join Division I’s ASUN Conference in August 2018.

Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management Ron Patterson said going Division I will allow UNA the chance to expand academic programs, offer more study abroad opportunities, bring more learning and volunteering opportunities across campus and the Shoals area and increase student support services.

Chief Financial Officer Evan Thornton said going Division I will hopefully allow UNA to increase funding from the state.

“Schools get funding based off of how well they are tied in to Montgomery,” Thornton said. “Being in the top corner of the state puts us at a disadvantage. Hopefully, going Division I will help.”

Patterson said research shows making the transition from Division II to Division I typically brings an enrollment growth of 11 – 13 percent. A growth in enrollment would allow UNA to grow many areas of campus, Patterson said.

Thornton said UNA will continue to make decisions based on what is best for the students. Going Division I does not change the way the school operates.

“We will be the same university we have always been, just with a higher classification,” Thornton said.

At the June 13 board of trustees meeting, UNA approved an increase in tuition rates for the 2016-17 school year. Thornton said with regards to becoming Division I however, the board of trustees made the decision not to increase student tuition any further at this point in time.

This comes as a relief to sophomore Haley Gannon.

“I was really concerned about tuition,” Gannon said. “As long as tuition isn’t increased, I am happy with the change.”

Patterson said as enrollment increases, UNA will evaluate all classroom space. This includes making decisions of which lecture halls will hold larger introductory classes.

Residence halls will also experience a change if enrollment grows. Patterson said UNA does not have enough students to fill up all of the residence halls. Higher enrollment numbers would change this.

UNA has discussed the issue of the upperclassmen residence halls for juniors and seniors in the past. These include Rice, Rivers and Lagrange Halls.

David Shields, vice president of Student Affairs, said UNA is looking into either constructing a new residence hall for upperclassmen or renovating either Rice or Rivers Hall.

Thornton said going Division I will allow UNA to appeal to more students. UNA has higher accreditation in some departments than bigger Division I schools, but most people assume the larger schools have better programs.

“People associate academic level with sports,” Thornton said. “Hopefully going Division I will allow our university to get the kind of recognition we deserve.”

Senior Cody McCrary said going Division I will help increase UNA’s academics.

“All of the best schools in the country are Division I,” McCrary said. “It’s safe to say there is a direct correlation.”