UPDATE 5/30: The state Senate unanimously approved an ammendment Friday that removes a provision from a bill which could have led to the closure of ECSU.
Sen. Bill Cook (R-District 1) proposed the amendment Friday.
Cook issued the following statement on the Senate budget provision:
“ECSU has had its fair share of problems in the past few years, but I do not think this study is the best way to begin addressing them,” Cook said. “I have prepared an amendment and after my discussion with Senate leadership they have agreed to support the elimination of the provision completely from the budget.”
Friday afternoon, Chancellor Becton held a town hall with concerned students and faculty.
Becton tried to calm nerves, pointing out that the provision in the senate budget hasn't yet passed.
He acknowledged the school's issues, but says the entire campus community is working hard to turn things around.
"We have had enrollment declines for three straight years now. And that has been a concern. We have beefed up our recruitment efforts," Becton said.
RALEIGH, NC -- The state Senate is considering a provision in its budget for next year to study closing Elizabeth City State University.
The provision in the $21 billion senate budget would look into the impact of closing under performing schools that have a 20 percent drop in enrollment over four years.
Jordan Hennessy, a spokesperson for Senator Bill Cook who represents Elizabeth City, says the provision specifically targets ECSU.
From 2010 to 2013, ECSU has seen a 33 percent drop in student enrollment, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and ECSU.
Supporters say the feasibility study would ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely at state schools.
"This is an actual study that will see what is the future what would be the best for the Elizabeth City State University and also on top of the study we'll be studying what would be the effects if there was a need to close the school and how that would affect the community," said Hennessy.
A spokeswoman for ECSU told 13News Now the school did not have a prepared statement immediately available.
If the provision passes, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina School System will deliver the report to the General Assembly in 2015.
Chancellor Becton’s statement regarding the NC Senate budget provision:
The North Carolina Senate is considering a budget provision that would dissolve constituent institutions with large declines in student enrollment. That decision could impact Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). This provision has not passed the NC House nor the NC Senate. It has not been signed into law.
“In my view, ECSU is, and will remain, a vital part of the University of North Carolina system. It has always been the premier four-year educational, economic, and cultural entity in northeastern North Carolina,” said Chancellor Charles Becton. ECSU is a force for growth in northeastern North Carolina, bringing education, jobs, grants, and cultural events to a part of the state that has been historically underdeveloped. ECSU is the third-largest employer in the region, and its total economic impact on the Elizabeth City community is 118 million in output sales, 83 million in value added (gross regional product), and 59 million in labor income.
The university provides 64.06% of the elementary and 38.46% of the secondary teachers for our geographic area. Over 60% of our students come from the 21 counties in northeastern North Carolina, and most of them, upon graduation, remain in the area filling much-needed jobs.
We have seen a decline in our enrollment during the past four years, but we are working hard to reverse that trend. Even at our current size, we are larger than hundreds of universities in this country and several in this state. Efforts are currently underway to right size the university and to develop signature areas to attract more students.
During the school year, even with a $4+ million budget deficit and an enrollment decline this academic school year, we had our largest fall and spring graduation classes.
“During this year, when naysayers question our worth, we have been recognized nationally for our educational and other offerings,” Becton said.
For the second year in a row, ECSU was ranked #1 among baccalaureate colleges in one of Washington Monthly’s College rankings. We were ranked number one in the Top Public School Regional Colleges (South) category by U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 edition and #18 among the nation’s 100+ Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 2014, ECSU was ranked seventh best out of the Top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) where college freshman return after their first year. (U.S. News and World Report 2014); ECSU ranked #3 among the top 10 greenest historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the public institution category. (Building Green Initiative, 2014).
ECSU has the lowest tuition among UNC system schools, and we represent one of the best values in education. ECSU will continue to be a beacon of hope for those wanting access to education and an enhanced opportunity for a better future.