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Elizabeth City State University records new eight year peak for students, continuing recovery from enrollment struggles

Elizabeth City State University recorded 2,149 students this academic year, the school announced this week – the highest student count in eight years.

ECSU, the smallest of the UNC System’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) faced enrollment struggles since its peak of about 3,000 students, but has recently seen a period of growth, with greater success recruiting both in-state and out of state first-year students, transfer and graduate students.

Chancellor Karrie Dixon attributed the continued growth to the NC Promise program, which offers  $500 per semester at four UNC System campuses – Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University.

“ECSU’s steady expansion in key demographic populations proves that the power of NC Promise tuition program is helping us reach more scholars who desire to earn a highly competitive degree at an affordable cost,” said Dixon in a statement on the enrollment increase. “We are welcoming highly gifted scholars who possess strong academic credentials and are laser focused on their collegiate success. We are also attracting students looking to continue and complete their education, which leads to economic mobility for our graduates locally, regionally and in North Carolina.”

Elizabeth City State University

The student population at ECSU increased by 4.6% from the 2022 to the 2023 academic year, with growth seen in most student categories. The university increased its first year students both from in-state and out of state for the fifth consecutive year. Sixty five percent of first year students were from North Carolina. The school also saw growth among first-year students from out of state, a trend the UNC Board of Governors was hoping to see continue when it raised the cap on out-of-state students at the system’s HBCUs.

Last year, the UNC Board of Governors raised that cap to 25% at all five of the system’s HBCUs.

In April, the system’s board of governors approved raising the cap to 35% at N.C. A&T and N.C. Central University and to 50 percent at Elizabeth City State University. The cap at Fayetteville State University and Winston-Salem State University will remain at 25%.

Graduate students at ECSU also increased 20 percent over the 2021 academic year to 116. That’s the highest number the school has recorded in a decade.

“This year, we are seeing how both the value and demand of the ECSU education are bringing new Vikings to our community,” said Dr. Farrah Ward, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “Aviation Science, our signature program, is the top intended major for first-time freshman, along with Business Administration, Psychology, Biology and Sports Management.”

In April ECSU announced it would provide a one-time $1,000 housing grant to each student living on campus in the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters, capitalizing on a recent survey of U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard data that found the campus to be the most affordable HBCU in the nation.

Late last month the university announced it had received more than $100,000 in grants for two library-related projects. The university will use the money to update the digital inventory and self-checkout systems at its G.R. Little Library as well as becoming a satellite office for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s work digitizing historical documents, photographs and newspapers.

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Elizabeth City State University records new eight year peak for students, continuing recovery from enrollment struggles