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ECSU OKs 'paper' tuition increase

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Josh Lassiter, vice chancellor for business and finance at Elizabeth City State University.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Elizabeth City State University Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase for out-of-state students this week that students won’t actually have to pay.

The “paper increase” is only designed to show the real cost of tuition as the university moves to implement a steep discount next fall under the “NC Promise” program.

Under the proposed fee increase, which must be approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors next spring, nonresident undergraduate tuition would rise by $480 a year. The increase technically won’t go into effect, however, because lawmakers have already set the rate for out-of-state tuition, through NC Promise, at $2,500 a semester. 

Josh Lassiter, ECSU's vice chancellor for business and finance, explained earlier to members of trustees’ Finance, Audit and Strategic Planning Committee that he sought the “paper increase” because it’s important to show the true cost of the General Assembly’s investment in NC Promise. ECSU also needs to keep a real tuition rate on its books that keeps pace with inflation in case the university ever loses its NC Promise funding, he said. 

"I know it's a little confusing because we have a statutory rate and then we have a sticker price that is being bought down by the legislature," Lassiter said.

Under NC Promise, in-state students at ECSU and two other universities in the UNC system that have had enrollment troubles will see their tuition fall to $500 a semester. 

Trustees also approved a $63.87 increase to students’ athletic fee. The increase, which isn’t a paper increase but a real one, is needed to help close a deficit in the athletics operating budget, Lassiter said. The proposed fee increase, from $815 to $878.87, will also go before the UNC Board of Governors when it meets on March 23.

If the Board of Governors approve, total student fees at ECSU would rise to $2,192. That includes $878.87 for athletics, $255.03 for health services, $703 for student activities and $362 for education and technology services.

Lassiter told the Finance, Audit and Strategic Planning Committee that the process of developing the proposals included two student forums in November that allowed students an opportunity to weigh in on the increases.

Lassiter said he appreciated the participation by student leaders, including Trustee Brittney Lamb, who represents the Student Government Association on the Board of Trustees.

During Tuesday’s meeting, trustees also heard an update from John Michael Lee Jr., vice chancellor for university advancement.

Lee reported that ECSU will be the Tom Joyner School of the Month for February 2018, with a fundraising goal of $200,000. Lee pointed out that as part of that promotion, donations of $2,500 and up will get a 30-second ad on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”

The fundraising goal for the March 10 Founders Day Gala is $200,000, Lee said.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, District Court Judge Eula Reid administered the oath of office to new Trustee Phyllis Bosomworth.

In other developments, Chancellor Thomas Conway reported that the ECSU Working Group and its related Operational Group are looking broadly across the institution to answer the question: "How can we give better service to all of our constituencies?"

ECSU is ready to become a viable partner with the city of Elizabeth City and needs to "lean forward into" how it can assist the local school district, Conway said.

ECSU is in "growth mode" and there always are growing pains in growth mode, Conway said. The university is embracing its identity as an historically black university but also is embracing its identity as a growing regional university, he said.

"We are continuing to grow and I am looking forward to the growth in the region and with the region," Conway said.

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