Senate spares ECSU from possible closure

Posted May 30, 2014 6:48 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2014 6:52 p.m. EDT

— The state Senate voted unanimously Friday to remove a budget provision that could have shut down Elizabeth City State University.

The provision - which would have allowed the UNC Board of Governors to study closing any institution with a 20 percent decline in enrollment between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2013 – sparked an outcry among supporters of the school and the Legislative Black Caucus. The historically black college has seen a precipitous drop in admissions, losing nearly 900 students in the last four years.

Still, supporters say the university has provided a higher education to generations of people in a traditionally poor corner of the state.

"It has done a great deal for me,” graduate Katherine Felton said. “My father attended, I attended, my daughter attended Elizabeth State University."

School administrators blame falling enrollment on tougher admissions standards and a recent scandal involving the campus police department's failure to investigate crimes. Chancellor Charles Becton said the school needs more help, not less.

“We will continue to operate,” he said. “We will continue to recruit students.”

Elizabeth City Mayor Joe Peel says ECSU is vital for area businesses that depend on it for customers and for struggling public schools. Many of the town’s teachers graduated from ECSU, and the school is third-largest employer in Pasquotank County.

“They grow up in the area,” Peel said. “They come here to be educated and go back to their communities.”