Facing lingering concerns over resources, heavy-handed involvement from the University of North Carolina System and dwindling application numbers, Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Thomas Conway today announced that he will retire in May.
Dr. Conway, who was appointed as chancellor without a formal search just one month after the December 2015 resignation of former chancellor Stacey Franklin Jones, led the institution through tumultuous periods of legislative and financial pressure. In 2016, the campus was at the center of a controversial bill proposing dramatic tuition cost reductions for three HBCUs and two other predominantly white UNC System institutions deemed to be underperforming in enrollment metrics.
ECSU was eventually targeted as the only historically black institution to be included in the $500-per-semester in-state tuition model, but last week, the UNC System reported that the embattled campus had drawn fewer applications for the Fall 2018 semester than Western Carolina and UNC-Pembroke, PWIs also included in the bill. From the Daily Advance:
While ECSU’s completed applications for the fall are up 11 percent, Western Carolina’s completed applications are up 12 percent and UNC-Pembroke’s are up by a whopping 50 percent, according to UNC data. All three campuses will be participating in the NC Promise program this fall that will offer a per-semester tuition rate of $500 for in-state students and just $2,500 for out-of-state students.
In October, system officials announced the installation of a working group to oversee the work of Dr. Conway and ECSU administrative employees who were then charged with a nine-month assignment to “make permanent and significant improvements in ECSU’s operational platform” by June 2018.
In a letter to UNC System President Margaret Spellings, Dr. Conway cited completed work in financial issues which surrounded the campus for decades.
“A good bit of my work at ECSU could be characterized as getting the table cleared of concerns raised through both internal audits and external reviews,” he wrote.
Last fall, ECSU claimed its largest freshman class in five years, and its first enrollment increase since 2010.