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ECSU views marketing for enrollment hike

091917Althea Riddick

Althea Riddick

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Combining new academic programs such as an online master’s degree in elementary education with new recruitment strategies, Elizabeth City State University is eyeing a third straight year of increased enrollment.

Enrollment at ECSU grew by 19 percent from 1,411 students in fall 2017 to 1,617 this fall, according to Althea Riddick, who heads enrollment management at the university. She outlined enrollment goals for fall 2019, which include: improving the yield rate -- the percentage of admitted students who enroll at the university -- for both new freshman students and new transfer students; increasing marketing and outreach; and enhancing student aid.

The 2017-2018 academic year marked the first time in seven years that ECSU saw an increase in enrollment. Enrollment grew this year due, in part, to the N.C. Promise program that offers a per-semester tuition rate of $500 for in-state students and just $2,500 for out-of-state students at ECSU, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Western Carolina University.

ECSU has been reversing a trend of declining enrollment since seeing enrollment plummet to 1,350 in Fall 2016. Riddick said transfer students are a major source of growth for the university. For that reason the university needs scholarships that are targeted specifically for transfer students, Riddick said.

Enhancing financial aid resources is one of the strategies ECSU is pursuing to grow enrollment, Riddick said. Specific goals include more merit-based aid, more need-based aid, more aid for non-traditional students, more financial aid gap funding, and increased financial aid literacy.

Gap funding is important, Riddick said, because some students only need $200 - $300 to supplement their existing financial aid package in order to be able to afford to enroll at the school.

In addition, campus tours are an important recruiting tool and have increased by 20 percent, Riddick told the trustees.

Riddick said the university has recently expanded its efforts in targeted recruitment, which includes recruitment based on: 

— Specific academic programs such as aviation, biology, education, emergency management, and music;

— The online degree in interdisciplinary studies as an attractive option for transfer students and returning students;

— Honors Program and athletics;

— Students from the Northeast Academy of Aviation and Advanced Technologies, a charter school housed on the ECSU campus;

— The Upward Bound program, which serves high school students from low-income families and from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree.

Responding to a question from trustee Kennis Wilkins about marketing ECSU’s online master’s degree in elementary education program, Interim Provost Farrah Ward replied that the program is advertised heavily on the large screen located at the edge of the campus across from Viking Village. But the university is looking for additional ways to market the program, she said.

Interim Chancellor Karrie Dixon said ECSU is looking at ways to grow its marketing budget. Currently ECSU is significantly below its peer institutions in what it spends for marketing, she said.

Ward said that right now most students in the master’s program in elementary education are local residents. If the university markets the program statewide it can grow the program, she said.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has the only other online master’s degree in elementary education in the state, according to Ward.

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