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SACS lifts sanction on ECSU

102517UNCmeeting

Chancellor Thomas Conway (center) of Elizabeth City State University, shown in this Oct. 24 file photo, announced Wednesday that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has lifted the "warning status" sanction it issued to ECSU last year for problems with enrollment and financial aid offers.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A regional accrediting body has lifted its sanction on Elizabeth City State University for deficiencies in how ECSU students are enrolled and offered financial aid.

ECSU has been removed from “warning status” by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Chancellor Thomas Conway said Wednesday. SACS is the accrediting body for colleges and universities in 11 southern states, including North Carolina.

Conway announced the SACS reprieve at a meeting of the panel known as Working Group 2, a body made up of representatives from ECSU and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Conway, who attended the SACS quarterly meeting in Texas earlier this week, told the working group that SACS announced it had taken ECSU off warning status and had also approved the university’s new curriculum program in emergency management. The chancellor noted that the approval of the emergency management program was a direct result of the warning status being lifted.

The SACS Commission on Colleges placed ECSU on warning status in June 2016, based on problems with admissions and financial aid standards identified in an internal audit by UNC General Administration. The audit found, among other things, that ECSU had admitted students who did not meet admission requirements, and had awarded financial aid to students who were not eligible for that aid.

Conway described the problems at the time as “legitimate accreditation body concerns.”

According to SACS, warning status is the “less serious” of two sanctions universities and colleges are subject to when it comes to their accreditation. Probation is the more severe sanction. Universities may be subject to warning status for noncompliance with what are known as “core requirements” or “comprehensive standards.” They also are subject to the sanction for failing to make “timely and significant  progress” toward correcting deficiencies from those requirements or standards.     

Conway said that SACS had stated in June that its focus was no longer on ECSU’s financial aid processes but solely concerned with the university’s enrollment process. The university since then has satisfied SACS that enrollment procedures are up to standard and being followed diligently.

The working group also heard a brief report from Althea Riddick, ECSU’s interim assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management. Riddick discussed the university’s recruitment efforts and procedures that ensure students complete applications and provide necessary documentation in a timely manner.

ECSU has increased its number of recruiters, Riddick said. By the middle of January, the university will have five full-time recruiters in the field, she said.

Right now the numbers of completed applications and admitted applicants are up, as are confirmed admissions for next year, Riddick said.

ECSU’s recruitment efforts are also about to take a strategic turn toward the university’s identified service area in northeastern North Carolina, she said.

"We are strategically targeting, starting in January, North Carolina," Riddick said. "We have been recruiting all over."

The university is also working to improve student retention. One strategy is to encourage returning students to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms before they leave for the summer.

ECSU Provost Vann Newkirk reported that the percentage of students who are pre-registering is starting to work its way back up. The percentage fell to 70 percent after peaking at 91 percent in 2013 and now is back up to 82 percent, he said.

Conway said that student retention is improving.

"The students that came last year decided to stay for this year," Conway said.

Conway also introduced to the working group Arthur Jackson, who is serving as interim vice chancellor for student affairs.

"I’m very glad to be here,” Jackson told the group. “There's lots of work to be done but it's very manageable."

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