"It is quite conceivable that we could have 25,000 students in 2008," Eakin said. "With incredible determination, effort and drive, it would be worthwhile to commit to a goal of 27,000 students."
The chancellor cautioned that increasing the number of students by 9,000 in 10 years would not be easy. Such growth would require, among other factors, new academic programs, successful completion of the current campaign to raise funds for scholarships, and significant new facilities beginning with the planned Science and Technology Building, he said.
The trustees devoted most of the special called meeting to discussions of ways to increase university enrollment while at the same time raising academic standards.
The University of North Carolina General Administration has projected an enrollment boom of nearly 50,000 additional students system-wide in the next 10 years, with most of the growth coming in the second five years. General Administration projections put ECU's enrollment at 23,700 in 2008. Eakin said that forecast by the GA is based on a model that with small changes at the beginning yields major shifts at the end of the decade.
"None of the numbers that we're using should be considered to be scientifically determined," Eakin said."They are simply projections. "No one knows what's going to happen in 10 years," he said.
Vice Chancellor Richard Ringeisen (Academic Affairs) and Vice Chancellor James Hallock (Health Sciences) outlined for the Trustees several undergraduate program additions, enhancements and revisions that could attract additional students to the campus.
The proposals, all of which would have to be approved by the faculty, included: a school of information sciences and technology, reorganized and expanded programs in communications, a program in coastal sciences, enhanced teacher training, a bachelor of science program in allied health sciences, and a program in engineering technology. Eakin cautioned that the programs discussed with the trustees were neither guaranteed nor exclusive. Other programs explored in recent discussions have included sports management, transportation and pharmacy, he said. The faculty and the deans must be centrally involved in proposing, developing and approving new programs, he said.
Donald Neal (Geology), vice chair of the faculty, told the trustees that the faculty has worked "long and hard to achieve doctoral status." He said that it is the hope of the faculty grow stronger programs on this foundation to attract even better faculty and students.
"Our contributions to the strengths of ECU come from the quality of our programs," he said. "If we build a strong, positive image of ECU, the students will come," he said. The university will grow, but that growth must be a managed growth, he said.
"It all comes down to image and the ability to market this image to the world," Neal said. "The faculty are ready and willing to do their part." Gene Rayfield, chair of the board, said the trustees want to aggressively pursue increased enrollment and increased standards at the same time. He suggested that the trustees may hold similar day-long meetings to consider growth strategies in health sciences and in athletics.
Trustee Robert Ward said East Carolina should be the "university of choice." "let's work on building quality programs," he said. "The students will come." Eakin said that administrators will return to the board at the March 11-12 meeting with a more-complete report on enrollment growth. ###
ECU News Bureau