When Myron Burney first arrived at Elizabeth City State University in mid-January, he found more than 2,000 student enrollment applications stacked around the admissions office and saw one office staffer manually entering applicants’ data into a computer.
Knowing the admissions process at ECSU could go a lot smoother, Burney, a consultant sent by the University of North Carolina General Administration, set about to make that happen.
For the past six months, the former director of student success and outreach at UNC General Administration has toiled three days a week, helping ECSU respond to the heftiest enrollment decline in the UNC system.
“(General Administration) has done everything they can to support (ECSU) with people and resources,” Burney said. “My specialty is enrollment management and retention. President (Tom) Ross asked me to refocus my work priorities to be there.”
So far, Burney’s efforts have helped bring some significant changes to how ECSU recruits students.
“We now receive applications electronically and are downloading and creating applicant files immediately,” Burney said in an email, adding that ECSU hopes to handle all applications electronically by the end of the year “as we move to a paperless process.”
Burney, who began his new role Monday as ECSU’s interim assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management and retention, also has led efforts to make the campus more aggressive in its recruitment of prospective students.
“ECSU was not collecting prospect data before I arrived,” he said.
Now, ECSU collects information on prospective students in the 11th grade — younger in some cases — and inputs it directly into the university’s online database, called Banner. The information is useful because it allows ECSU to stay in touch with the students as they make their choice about where to attend college.
“This was critical to building a pipeline for the future,” Burney said of the new information-collection system. “We have over 800 prospects in the system as of today ranging (in age) from eighth- to 11th-grade.”
Another priority on Burney’s watch has been improving customer service.
Several prospective students last fall complained publicly about shoddy customer service they encountered at ECSU during the application process. Burney is hoping to reduce those kinds of complaints.
“I am certain our students and parents will see a enhanced level of customer service from the Enrollment Management Offices, which include Admissions, Financial Aid, Retention and Military Affairs,” Burney said. “We are moving in a direction in my unit to make people feel like ECSU is an extension of home.”
Burney said the university also now offers scholarships much earlier than it has in the past. Historically, students would receive scholarships with their financial aid packages only after they had enrolled.
“We’re just being more aggressive on the front end,” he said.
Offering scholarship money in advance of students arriving at ECSU has allowed the university to enroll “some strong students,” Burney said.
A related initiative, he said, is “dominating” the university’s 21-county service area. Awarding scholarships to high-achieving students ties in with that goal, he said.
“We know kids (seeking to attend college) don’t necessarily want to go far from the area,” he said.
Burney said his office’s efforts and the new initiatives aren’t evident in ECSU’s projected enrollment figures for the fall semester. University officials said last week they expect a total of 1,854 students to enroll for the semester that begins in August — a significant decrease from last fall’s enrollment of 2,421.
However, “I think the work will show going forward,” Burney said. He noted that many high school seniors make their college decisions by February, and he had barely arrived on campus by then.
Prior to coming to ECSU, Burney had been with UNC General Administration for five years. He worked as assistant director of admissions for North Carolina State University and the University of Georgia prior to that.
A native of Chadbourn, a small town in Columbus County, he said he understands “what it is like to come from a very small town and go on to live your dreams.”