BOT photo

East Carolina University's cupola, which sits on the main campus.

East Carolina University Board of Trustees (BOT) Strategic Higher Ed Finance with a Focus on Enrollment and Finance & Facilities Committee met on Nov. 11 to discuss the business model of enrollment strategies and potential fee increases. 

In the Strategic Higher Ed meeting, members of the rpk GROUP presented a presentation to BOT members to discuss business models and objectives in higher education, such as two and four year institutions, in terms of enrollment efforts. The company partners with two to four-year institutions to launch new business models to assist the organization financially. 

Rick Staisloff, senior partner of rpk GROUP, said rpk GROUP wants more students to get in the door and enter universities while still being able to maintain affordability around access to resources.

“We (rpk GROUP) want to ensure equity, but we know there’s quite a bit of work to be done around increasing attainment,” Staisloff said.

Staisloff said ECU has a good history in attainment, despite the constraint of resources to sustain the efforts. He said in order to maintain the positive efforts, the focus has shifted from spending and budget-balancing to investment, return on investment and understanding what the levers are to have it under control.

Students may focus more on the price they’re paying for in the university and how long it will take for them to get their degree, Staisloff said. However, institutions focus more on the bottom line of how to reduce costs such as unit costs, he said.

“We've (rpk GROUP) thought about philanthropy for students as prices have gone up almost annually about increasing financial aid. Those are all important components of how we make the business model work,” Staisloff said.

Kate Hagen, senior associate of rpk GROUP, presented the committee with examples about the reality of enrollment decline from previous rpk GROUP clients such as Vermont State College System and University of Kansas. She said previous clients used a method called system consolidation and tried to understand what they were offering to the state for students and how the clients went from three academic portfolios to a single statewide portfolio.

Hagen said the client’s consolidation helped them achieve financial sustainability and drive a return on investment. 

“I think one thing to think about is what you (ECU) offer and so what they did in Vermont was to build a framework for evaluation, and sort of take this framework and establish a single statewide academic portfolio that allowed them to build on their strengths,” Hagen said. 

During the Finance & Facilities Committee meeting, Stephanie Coleman, vice chancellor for administration and finance, presented plans and proposals ranging from tuition fees to parking. Coleman said that as far as revenue goes, compared to last year, ECU is ahead as of now for this semester. ECU ranks eighth in the state of North Carolina for highest service fee. 

Coleman said that when it comes to the dental fee, there are two types of fees classified as a special fee and a miscellaneous fee. Since there are different approvals within the dental school, there are different fees in accordance with them. 

Coleman said the proposal to increase the dental fee by $595. Coleman said that for the pre-clinical materials fee, which generally speaking is the practice teeth, whether it be human or mannequin, is what students operate on. Coleman said the proposal was to go $450 across the board for all levels.

“All of this information was shared with our (ECU) tuition and fee committee. One individual did not support the dental electronic textbook. We had that individual work with the dental school to better understand the electronic textbook and how they worked,” Coleman said.

Coleman said that when it comes to parking the same proposal from fall of 2019, which also included housing and dining, is being used as of now. She said ECU administration had come to the board with the plans of not touching any of these fees but it was rescinded. She said that it’s a 2% increase on all permits but for the reserved spaces the proposal was to raise the cost from $560 to $720.

Coleman also brought up a proposal for the loss of student 1 Card. Currently, the price of receiving a new 1 Card after it is lost is $15 but she said that the proposal was to increase it to $20. She said that $20 was in the vicinity of what other schools are doing.

“SGA wrote a resolution and fully supported all of these (housing and dining) outside of dental because they didn’t hear those,” Coleman said.

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