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Spellings backs continued admissions flexibility HBCUs


University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings addresses graduates and their families during Elizabeth City State University's 166th commencement at the R.L. Vaughan Center on the ECSU campus, Saturday.


By Reggie Ponder
Stafff Writer

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ELIZABETH CITY -—The UNC System president plans to recommend that greater flexibility in admission standards be continued at historically black campuses where it’s been in effect the past three years.

Margaret Spellings was in Elizabeth City on Saturday to deliver the keynote address at the 166th commencement of Elizabeth City State University, one of three state universities where relaxed enrollment standards have helped boost enrollment. Spellings will recommend continuing the policy when the UNC Board of Governors meets later this month, she said after the graduation ceremony in an interview with The Daily Advance.

Current UNC System admission standards require students to have a minimum 2.5 grade-point average in high school and a score of 880 score on the SAT or a 17 on the ACT, both of which are used by college admission officers for determining enrollment eligibility.

Under the three-year pilot program, ECSU, Fayetteville State University and N.C. Central University have been able to admitted students with lower SAT or ACT scores as long as their GPA is higher than the minimum standard. 

Starting this fall, the three campuses also will begin offering the NC Promise tuition discount — $500 a semester tuition for in-state students and $2,500 for out-of-state students.

ECSU officials have asked UNC System officials to extend the admission standards pilot program, slated to end after this year, at least for another year so that the university will have a chance to collect graduation data on the freshmen who entered three years ago under the program.

During the brief interview, Spellings had high praise for retiring ECSU Chancellor Thomas Conway, saying he’s provided excellent leadership during his two-plus years at the university. She also said interim Chancellor Karrie Dixon is prepared to continue growing the university.

“He is ending his 45 years of public service with a career capper of stablizing this university and truly bringing this place to a great starting point for Dr. Dixon,” Spellings said.

Conway will be retiring on May 31.

The investments the state legislature has made at ECSU in the past couple of years reflect the confidence state officials have had in Conway’s leadership, Spellings said.

The NC Promise program is proving to be “a shot in the arm” at ECSU and the other two NC Promise campuses, Spellings said. “No doubt about it.”

Dixon, who assumed daily operational responsibility at ECSU on April 9, said the university is focused on the 21-county region in northeastern North Carolina but also working to spread the word about ESCU across the state.

“NC Promise is helping us to do that,” Dixon said.

Spelliings said she is not really looking for General Assembly action this year on ECSU’s request for capital funds to build a new library on campus. Capital requests for all the UNC System’s campuses will be more appropriately handled in next year’s “long” legislative session, she said, adding that what she is hearing is that legislative leaders plan to finish the session that begins on Wednesday relatively early this year.

But when next year’s long session convenes, ECSU’s request for funding for a new library building and other capital requests should face a good prospect for funding, according to Spellings.

Spellings also said she will be talking to ECSU trustees in the near future about the search process for finding a permanent chancellor. On Saturday, however, she said she wanted to focus on celebrating this year’s graduating class at ECSU.

She said she was very happy with the way Conway and Dixon have handled the current transition.

“I can’t imagine a more flawless, seamless, productive transition than this one we have had with Dr. Conway and Dr. Dixon,” Spellings said. “And I thank them both.”

Reggie Ponder is a reported for The Daily Advance of Elizabeth City.