Promise could boost enrollment to 1,700


Chancellor Thomas Conway, Jr. (center) of Elizabeth City State University and University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings (left) meet with members of the ECSU "Working Group" at the K.E. White Center in this Oct. 24 file photo.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The group of ECSU and UNC officials working to boost enrollment at Elizabeth City State University believe the number of students on campus could total 1,700 next fall when the NC Promise tuition discount program takes effect.

If that happens, it would represent an enrollment bump of 300 students from this fall and be the university’s second enrollment increase in a row — a major change after six years of enrollment decreases. 

Chancellor Thomas Conway told members of the ECSU “Working Group” at a meeting Wednesday that next fall’s projection, which also includes a freshmen class of 525, is “still a soft figure” but is based on the best current estimates by Althea Riddick.

Riddick, ECSU’s interim director of enrollment management, has briefed trustees and other university officials about the enrollment outlook as ECSU prepares to implement NC Promise in fall 2018. NC Promise, which will discount tuition at ECSU to $500 a semester for in-state students and $2,500 a semester for out-of-state students, is expected to generate a surge in enrollment at ECSU.

The working group, the second formed by UNC President Margaret Spellings to address enrollment at ECSU, is made up of three ECSU trustee board members and three members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. Spellings participated in Wednesday’s meeting by telephone, telling the group she was looking forward to hearing reports from the team.

Conway reported that about 50 people attended a community forum at The Mount church on Nov. 7. One of the main goals of the forum was to communicate to the public the purpose of the working group, which Conway said is to prepare ECSU for growth and the possibility of additional investment by the state and other sources.

The chancellor noted that ECSU’s goals are linked to the strategic goals established by the UNC system for all its constituent institutions.

Conway noted that Kim Brown, chairman of the ECSU Board of Trustees, had spoken from the heart at last week’s forum when he talked about how change at any institution in a small town is likely to be taken personally by many in the community, and how the community needs to be ready to accept change when it is needed.

Conway said he had met with student leaders and they are supportive of the working group’s efforts as they relate to strengthening support for students.

Karrie Dixon, vice president for academic and student affairs for the UNC system, said university officials are expecting a surge in applicants for next year and hope to report preliminary numbers at the group’s next meeting. ECSU in fact waived application fees this week during College Application Week — a move that is expected to generate a high number of applications.

Dixon also said ECSU is making great strides in addressing problems previously identified in how its financial aid process works.

ECSU Trustee Jan King Robinson, a member of the working group, asked about staffing for recruitment and financial aid.

Conway said he is looking now at making sure the university has enough staff in enrollment management and financial aid.

Trustee Harold Barnes, another working group member, asked whether the university has advertised in Virginia, particularly about the NC Promise program.

Conway said the university has done some advertising in Virginia. ECSU is also planning a mailing in Virginia that will target about 60,000 traditional college students plus another 20,000 who might consider continuing their education at ECSU.

Barnes said the community meeting in Elizabeth City was a good idea, and suggested holding community meetings in other counties served by the university.

Brown asked about outreach to Tidewater Community College, which has campuses in Virginia.

"It would be valuable to reach out to that student body," Brown said.

Conway said TCC is a significant contributor to ECSU’s student population now. In addition, TCC is included in ECSU’s plan to get more community college graduates to attend ECSU, according to Conway.