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Enrollment effects on ECU budget unknown

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The anticipated drop in ECU enrollment wasn’t as large as predicted, university officials said, but it’s unclear what effect it will on state funding.

Details about fall enrollment 2019 were discussed during the Board of Trustees’ Thursday and Friday sessions.

It was announced earlier this week that the university welcomed its third-largest freshman class this semester, with 4,366 students.

The university’s overall enrollment was 28,651, down 67 students from last year.

“That is a much better outcome than we projected in the spring,” said Ying Zhou, associate provost for institutional planning, assessment and research. It was anticipated enrollment could drop by 255 students.

Decreased enrollment reduces the state funding given to a university.

The enrollment drop wasn’t as large as expected but not all of the new students are full-time, meaning they are taking fewer credit hours. This also is part of the state’s funding formula, interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach said.

When new transfer, certificate studies, graduate and doctoral students are added, the total number of new students this fall is 8,841, Zhou said.

Part-time students fall in the unclassified category: individuals not seeking a degree or certificate but who take courses with full-time students. They take classes to obtain skills.

Ninety percent of undergraduate students and 89 percent graduate students live in-state, Zhou said.

Trustee Max Joyner Jr. asked why the university wasn’t recruiting more out-of-state students.

ECU has been priced out of the out-of-state market, with tuition costing nearly $23,000, Provost Ron Mitchelson said. The additional revenue from out-of-state tuition payments does not go to ECU, he noted.

Zhou said 57 percent of undergraduates and 67 percent of graduates are women, 65 percent of undergraduates and 69 percent of graduate students are white and 83 percent of undergraduate and 46 percent graduate students are full-time.

Zhou said the average unweighted grade point average of new freshmen increased this year to 3.31, up from 3.12 in 2018. An unweighted GPA doesn’t factor in course difficulty and is based on a scale of 0 to 4.0.

The university had 19,237 fall applicants and accepted 15,143, an acceptance rate of 79 percent.

Across the UNC System, 68 percent of students graduate in a five-year period. At ECU, slightly less that 62 percent of students graduate in five years.

Trustee Fielding Miller asked about efforts to recruit students from the areas of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Greensboro and Wake County. In earlier presentations, staff said enrollment from the Charlotte and Wake County areas was declining.

Zhou said enrollment from Wake County was up by 122 students and from Charlotte-Mecklenberg was up 24 students. Enrollment from Forsyth and Guilford counties also was up.

“We have re-established momentum in these key places,” Provost Ron Mitchelson said.

It was noted that previous enrollment discussions acknowledged that the nation’s birth rate is declining and universities nationwide will be recruiting from a have a smaller pool of high school students, especially those from eastern North Carolina where several counties are losing population.

Asked if the university was adjusting its planning for a possible decline, Gerlach said that ECU will benefit if more people move to the region, and that requires economic development.

That is why the university is increasing its participation in economic development activities, he said.

Chancellor's search

Board of Trustees Chairman Vern Davenport said that after consulting with UNC System interim President William Roper, he plans to appoint trustees to a search committee in November and other members by the end of the year.

Davenport said his goal is to have a chancellor seated before the fall 2020 semester begins.

Bylaws discussed

Board members still are debating when they can participate and vote via telephone.

The board delayed action on proposed changes to participation in emergency and special meetings because of continuing debate about telephone participation in regular meetings.

The board is updating its bylaws following a dispute over the election of the board chairman.

Newly appointed board members in July sought to install one of their own, Angela Moss, in the chairman's seat instead of Davenport, who previously served as vice-chairman.

Current board members believed ECU's bylaws allowed attendance and voting via telephone, which is different from the UNC Board of Governors's bylaws. When ECU's attorney reviewed ECU's bylaws, it was found the rules do not specifically state telephone voting was allowed but it had taken place.

Trustee Leigh Fanning was participating via telephone but when the voting question arose she joined the meeting less than 30 minutes later. Davenport was elected and the board asked Trustee Jason Poole and Student Government Association President Colin Johnson to work with university staff to research and revise the bylaws.

The proposed bylaw revision would allow voting via telephone for special and emergency meetings but there were questions about having only a 48-hour meeting notice. It was during the discussion that board members renewed their opposition to telephone voting during regular meetings.

Trustee Fielding Miller said the board meets five times during the school year, so members have plenty of time to make arrangements to attend. Davenport said unexpected situations, such as a medical emergency, can come up and it shouldn't prevent a member from participating via phone.

Miller asked if an exemption for medical emergencies would be possible. Trustee Max Joyner Jr. asked if that meant members would have to send in doctor's notes before or after the meeting. Poole and Johnson were directed to continue work on the proposal.

Another recommended change would end the requirement that the chancellor give an annual update when the fiscal year ends on June 30. Moss opposed the change because state statutes require the report. However other universities in the UNC have done away with the report. The board voted to delay action so more information could be researched.

Naming proposal accepted

The trustees unanimously voted to rename the Entrepreneurship Center, which was formerly the Small Business Institute, the Crisp Small Business Resource Center. It's located in the College of Business’ Miller School of Entrepreneurship.

The center was renamed following a $1 million gift from Washington, N.C., native Matt Crisp and his wife Kim. He received both a business and master's of business administration degree from ECU in the 1990s. He is the founder and former CEO of eVestment and founder of Athletic Edge Sports and Fitness.

The mission of the Crisp Center is to provide access to best practices and proven knowledge for ECU students and area entrepreneurs who plan to start or sustain enterprises in eastern North Carolina.

“This gift from my wife and me to the Miller School of Entrepreneurship is our small way of giving back to the eastern North Carolina business community,” Crisp said in a news release.. “It is our expectation that the Crisp Center will assist aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams of starting and running successful businesses here in the area and help the local economy thrive.”

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