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Record ECU enrollment has its rewards and challenges

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Students walk in front of Joyner Library on Thursday at ECU. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Friday, September 8, 2017

ECU is a big place — and getting bigger, according to data released by the university on Thursday, otherwise known as “census day.”

The 10th day of each fall semester is census day throughout the UNC system, when a preliminary snapshot of each school’s enrollment data traditionally is captured for review and approval by the UNC General Administration.

East Carolina University’s fall enrollment of 29,131 students is one for the record books, according to Thursday’s news release. The student body represents all 100 North Carolina counties, 50 states and the District of Columbia and 44 countries. It’s also the largest undergraduate enrollment recorded at ECU — 23,265. The class of 2021 is the third-largest freshman class on record.

One of the areas that saw a boost this semester in undergraduate and doctoral students is the College of Nursing. There was a 15-percent increase in undergraduate nursing students, and the number of students seeking a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) went up 5 percent, data indicated.

“The growth in our undergraduate enrollment is a testament to the success of our two innovative programs that give students new ways to pursue a baccalaureate nursing degree,” Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing, said. “Increased demand for primary care providers across the nursing profession and more opportunities for nurses to advance in their careers have driven interest in our DNP program.” 

The College of Engineering and Technology’s construction management program saw a 31-percent enrollment jump. CET Dean Harry Ploehn said the college’s goal is to enhance academic excellence.

“These terrific enrollment numbers reflect the streamlining the department of construction management has undertaken and how it incorporated state-of-the-art courses that reflect the construction industry’s needs,” Ploehn said.

In the College of Business, which increased enrollment this year by 22 percent, students have the opportunity to interact and learn from industry leaders who have helped shape the college’s reputation, Dean Stan Eakins said.

“These numbers demonstrate how our college’s alumni are engaged with our students and their success,” Eakins said. “Our risk management and insurance program sponsors annual, on-site visits and enjoys nearly 100 percent job placement of its graduates.”

Students seeking doctoral and professional practice degrees in medicine, dentistry and allied health sciences grew to 819, the largest in the university’s history.

Other programs that saw significant increases were graduate students in counselor education and undergraduate majors in criminal justice, university officials said in the news release.

The signs of the burgeoning university were not lost on many of the students spending time Thursday on the campus mall. Life at a big university its advantages, but also some challenges, they said.

“Whoa, that’s a lot; it makes me feel really small,” Virginia Caviness, a freshman business major from New Hill, said about the enrollment numbers. “I was kind of overwhelmed by all the people on campus, but I’m getting used to it now and I know where all my classes are now. I’m really glad I chose ECU.”

Her home in the newly refurbished Clement Hall makes Caviness’ adjustment to campus life a lot more comfortable, she said.

ECU has been making efforts in the last seven years to revitalize its existing housing stock to better serve students now and in the future, Bill McCartney, associate vice chancellor for campus living, said.

“While we built Gateway East and West, which opened in 2015, these buildings provided only a slight increase in on-campus housing and was primarily a replacement for beds lost in the demolition of Belk Hall,” McCartney said.  

Alley Tuttle, a freshman nursing major from the small town of King, admitted she was homesick a lot during her first couple weeks at ECU, but is beginning to adjust, thanks in part to having Karis Carlton, a freshman in nutrition and pre-med from Mebane, as a great roommate.

“It’s getting better now that I’ve made some friends, and I’m starting to like being here,” Tuttle said. “Being one of 29,000 students is scary to me, honestly, because I’m really small. But I can feel it getting better. I’m doing really well in my classes. That part isn’t hard for me.

“Sometimes you can’t find a place to walk on the sidewalk, but I knew I was coming to a big college,” Carlton said. “And one of the good things is that there’s always someone to help if I need help with my class work.”

The cultural and ethnic diversity of the ECU campus are pluses for Kayla Alderman, a senior communications major from Lewisville.

“I know it’s a big goal for Chancellor Staton, and I think it’s a good thing to be exposed to so many people from all over the state and the world,” Alderman said. “When I leave here and enter my career, I’ll be working with all kinds of people, so this experience will be valuable for me.”

“It’s always cool to meet people from different countries and see the interesting things about them,” Lutynfki said. “I count it as an advantage.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.