Board funds EC Scholars
Chairman Robert Brinkley saved what might be considered the biggest news for his closing remarks during the regularly scheduled East Carolina University Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 20.
Brinkley announced that several board members had approached him following a presentation by Glen Gilbert, interim director of University Advancement, the day before. Together, the board members will fund an EC Scholar award, which recognizes academic performance, community engagement and leadership skills. Recipients are admitted to the ECU Honors College and receive the university’s largest merit scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of approximately $61,000.
After a hearty round of applause – including a standing ovation from Honors College Dean Marianna Walker – board member Steve Jones added that VantageSouth Bank would also like to fund an EC Scholar award for four years.
Walker was surprised by both announcements, she said after the meeting.
“The EC Scholarship is the highest merit scholarship at the university and is critical to increasing the academic profile of the university,” she said. The majority of the EC Scholar awards are funded through endowments, she added.
It was the third new EC Scholar gift announced in the last week, Walker said. A group of ECU Foundation Board of Directors will fund a scholarship for four years as well.
This year, 19 incoming freshmen were selected for the EC Scholars program.
In other meeting news, close to 27,000 total students enrolled this fall at ECU, including the second largest freshman class in the university’s history, university officials reported.
The total number of students is 26,887, down slightly from a year ago at 26,947, Dr. John Fletcher, associate provost of enrollment services, told the board’s University Affairs Committee on Sept. 19.
Enrollment figures are considered preliminary until reviewed and approved by the UNC General Administration.
Undergraduate enrollment is at 21,507, up from 21,298 last fall. A total of 4,903 graduate students are enrolled, down from 5,226 last year which is part of a state and national trend. Ten out of 15 universities in the UNC system reported declines in graduate enrollment, Fletcher said. However, the Brody School of Medicine had a slight increase with 323 students this year compared to 319 last fall. The School of Dental Medicine’s third class added another 50 students with enrollment now at 154.
The committee also received a snapshot of ECU’s freshman class. A total of 4,495 enrolled out of 11,238 students who were offered admission. The university received 15,321 freshman applications. Of those freshmen enrolled, 85 percent are in-state residents and about 15 percent are out-of-state. The average SAT score was 1,052 and the average high school GPA for entering freshmen was 3.68.
A total of 1,328 transfer students enrolled this fall at ECU, which was fewer than the university’s goal of 1,400, Fletcher said.
Paul Gemperline, dean of graduate studies, said ECU’s graduate enrollment peaked in 2008. Enrollment has declined about 5.2 percent each year since then. The economy, loss of employer assistance or support, and other factors have resulted in fewer students. “We expected a decline but this year’s decline was deeper and faster than I expected,” Gemperline said.
A new online advertising campaign has begun to recruit students. Recruiting workshops will be held and new graduate degree programs have started or are being planned.
“Our best chance is to market to our students who already know us,” said university affairs committee member Carol Mabe of Oriental.
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Marilyn Sheerer also updated the University Affairs Committee on the impact of budget cuts on divisions, schools and departments.
Overall, the university received a 3.68 percent cut – more than $10 million – in state appropriations this year. Some units took more cuts than others. “We definitely differentiated this year,” Sheerer said.
There is continued emphasis on system-wide efficiencies, she said. Academic Affairs has used recommendations from the Program Prioritization Committee as a guide and will look to a recently formed University Committee on Fiscal Sustainability for additional guidance on expected budget cuts in the future. When positions become vacant, they are being held, assessed and will be allocated where they are needed, Sheerer said.
“We’re not doing anything across the board anymore,” Sheerer said. “We’re trying to use our resources in the best way we can.”
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for Nov. 21-22.