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Dr. Ron Mitchelson, interim chancellor, presents highlights and news from the university during the ECU Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 22. | Photos: Cliff Hollis
The East Carolina University Board of Trustees approved increases in student tuition and fees beginning in the fall 2020 semester and announced a search committee to find its next chancellor during a meeting Nov. 22.
Tuition will increase $134 annually or 3% - the maximum allowed by the state - for incoming in-state freshmen if approved by the UNC System Board of Governors, which is expected to consider proposals for its institutions this spring.
Tuition for current ECU students, out-of-state undergraduate students, and graduate students would remain the same.
Undergraduate in-state tuition would increase from $4,452 to $4,586 in 2020-21. The increase would generate about $830,000, which would be used for degree completion scholarships, property insurance and updating the university's network.
A $50 increase in the athletics fee was approved by trustees despite an ECU Student Government Association Assembly (SGA) resolution against it. Projected revenues are more than $1 million, which will go toward the annual athletics operating shortfall.
SGA also opposed a 3% increase in housing costs for renovated residence halls, but supported an additional $10 education and technology fee, $17 more for student center operations and fee increases for dining, parking and 1Card replacements.
SGA president Colin Johnson, who voted against the tuition and fee increase, reiterated concern about the athletics budget and its growing reliance on student fees. "Student government thoroughly vetted all the proposals,"
Johnson said. "We have serious concerns about the sustainability of athletics and how it affects student auxiliaries."
Bob Plybon, chair of the finance and facilities committee who presented the proposal to the board, said ECU is eighth for undergraduate residents in the UNC system schools in tuition and fees, and 18th out of 19th in its peer group nationally. ECU ranks fourth overall for tuition costs in the UNC system.
"Nobody likes to raise tuition and fees, but we have had no increase for three years. Tuition is locked after they (students) come in for four years,"
Leigh Fanning, left, and Colin Johnson listen to committee reports during the Board of Trustees meeting in the Main Campus Student Center.
Plybon said. "We likely won't be able to increase next year. We feel it's time."
The state enacted a fixed tuition rate for first-time, full-time resident undergraduates and new transfer students who remain continuously enrolled for eight consecutive semesters, or the equivalent number of remaining semesters for transfer students.
To help address student government concerns, the Campus Tuition and Fee Committee (CTFC) recommended that the chancellor establish a committee of students, faculty, staff, administration, donors and community residents to study and develop a long-term sustainability plan so recommendations can be made before the start of the 2021-22 tuition and fee proposal process.
The education and technology fee should generate about $250,000 in new revenues that would be used for network infrastructure. The student center fees project revenues of about $348,500 that would be used for operating costs for the main campus and health sciences student centers.
The CTFC had meetings in October with students and reviewed current tuition and fee policies, past rates and increases, peer institution rates, and guidance from the UNC System office. The committee recommended approval to Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson, who supported the recommendation.
In addition, the following tuition increases were approved for masters' programs in the College of Business: business administration ($450), accounting ($450), and sustainable tourism and hospitality ($2,700); and the College of Health and Human Performance (athletic training - $2,280). The proposal also includes stand-alone certificate programs in business.
The following nonmandatory fees were approved:
- A $5 increase for replacement 1Cards, upping the total cost from $15 to $20.
- Housing costs will increase 3% for students living in 10 renovated residence halls.
- Mandatory meal plans will increase an average of 2.23%, and an average of 5.31% for optional meal plans.
- Parking fees will increase 2% for all permit holders, except for garage and reserved permits. Increases will range from $1 to $8 annually.
In other action, trustees chair Vern Davenport announced the formation of a 20-member search committee to identify candidates for the next ECU chancellor.
"This committee represents the very best of ECU - our faculty, staff, students, administration, alumni and donors - the Greenville community, Pitt County, eastern North Carolina and the state of North Carolina,"
Davenport said. "We hope to garner support from the community, not only for the candidate pool that we'll be working with, but also the process by which we'll be working."
Davenport urged the community and university stakeholders to participate in the process through a survey that will be widely distributed and can be found on the chancellor search website as well as listening sessions that will be conducted in early 2020.
The committee has scheduled its first meeting on Dec. 10, when it will receive its charge from Dr. Bill Roper, UNC system president. "We want to have a chancellor in place before students report for fall 2020, so it's a very aggressive timeline, which is why we're starting this process now,"
The committee will make recommendations to the ECU trustees, who will recommend a slate of at least two candidates to Roper for consideration. Roper will interview the candidates and either recommend a preferred candidate to the UNC Board of Governors for its approval, or return the entire slate of candidates back to the ECU trustees with further instructions.
"Our primary responsibility as a committee is to choose the best candidate that we can to unite Pirate Nation to move us forward over the next decade and beyond,"
Davenport said. "This university is just too important to this community, this region and this state to not accomplish this endeavor. And we are stronger, as you all know, when we're working together."
Trustees also approved the conferral of degrees for about 2,300 December graduates. Commencement will be held at 9 a.m. Dec. 13 in Minges Coliseum.
On Thursday, trustee committees received the following information:
- Mitchelson reported to the University Affairs committee that first-year applications and deposits for 2020-21 are ahead of where they were at this time last year. Committee members received a comprehensive report on marketing efforts to recruit incoming first-year students.
- Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert reported a $100,000 net profit in alcohol sales at athletics events to date. In addition, the ECU basketball game against Liberty on Nov. 16 was the highest attended and highest revenue game for the program since 2008. Gilbert also said the department is working on a "complete revamp" of the Student Pirate Club that will include more amenities offered in the future.
- Dr. Mark Stacy, vice chancellor of ECU's Division of Health Sciences, gave an update on the strong recent financial showing of ECU Physicians and detailed the huge return on investments into capital improvements at the Brody School of Medicine that were completed within the last two years. Stacy also stressed the importance of the construction of a new medical school, which he said is also projected to have a powerful return on investment for the people of eastern North Carolina.
- Caitlin Bradley, a physician assistant studies student in the College of Allied Health Sciences, talked about her wide-ranging life experiences that led her to choose ECU for her education and how ECU has exceeded her expectations in preparing her to help improve access to primary care in medically underserved areas.