“First-Year Experience,” MERIT, and JEWELS
Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), located in Pasquotank County in eastern North Carolina, is also part of the UNC system. In the fall of 2014, 73 percent of students enrolled were African American.1
Because ECSU is predominantly African-American, the programs and initiatives the institution offers to increase enrollment, completion, and overall attainment levels, while not necessarily designated for minority students, significantly impact the success rates for minority students.
ECSU offers programs targeted for freshman specifically because ECSU staff found that, similar to most higher education institutions, the greatest leak in the college pipeline was between freshman and sophomore year.2
For this reason, the school offers a program called “First-Year Experience,” or “FYE,” which aims to ease a student’s transition to college life by introducing them to academic and extra-curricular opportunities as well as building communities with peers and faculty.
FYE allows the student to feel comfortable and invested in ECSU’s campus community, which works to reduce attrition rates between first and second year.3 To support the FYE program, ECSU established mentoring programs called MERIT, in 2012, and JEWELS, in 2013, which support male sophomore and female sophomore students, respectively, to ensure increased levels of retention between those most critical years of college.4
ECSU has programs in place to both recruit high school and community college students and to facilitate the transfer of students from other higher education institutions. ECSU alumni comprise most of the recruiters and they use a comprehensive approach to reach prospective students.
Through fairs at local churches, open house events at high schools, and other methods, ECSU recruiters engage students as young as high school freshmen, as well as community college students who possibly have not considered transferring to a four-year institution as an option.
Most of ECSU’s transfer students come from nearby College of The Albemarle, a community college also located in Elizabeth City. Transfer students, generally, are more likely to re-enroll each academic year because they have made the proactive decision to continue their education at a four-year institution.5
The Transfer Student Center at ECSU tracks and assists transfer students on campus, providing various support services to ease their transition.
According to ECSU staff, the greatest barrier to degree completion at ECSU is financial.
Over 90 percent of ECSU students receive some kind of financial aid. Many students must suspend study for a semester to work and earn income, and some do not return. During interviews at ECSU, administrators suggested the University College model as one that would mitigate the financial challenges that often prevent students from earning a degree.
The University College model, which is available on several UNC campuses but not at ECSU due to lack of funding, is a one-stop-shop for support services, advisors, and tutoring where students can address multiple issues under one roof.6
This model is designed to provide comprehensive support for incoming students, academically, culturally, and personally.
Michelle Goryn is a writer and public policy consultant in Raleigh, NC.
Paige C. Worsham is Senior Policy Counsel with the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research and conducted the interviews and convenings for this project.
The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is grateful to numerous, generous supporters. Major funding for this project is provided by the Lumina Foundation for Education, with additional funding from the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund, and the Hillsdale Fund.
- Elizabeth City State University website, http://www.ecsu.edu/administration/ia/urm/quickfacts.cfm. ↩
- Interview with Vincent Beamon, Elizabeth City State University Registrar, and Monette Dutch Williams, Director of Enrollment and Retention ↩
- “First Year Experience,” Elizabeth City State University, http://www.ecsu.edu/academics/generalstudies/programs.cfm. ↩
- Interview with Vincent Beamon, Elizabeth City State University Registrar, and Monette Dutch Williams, Director of Enrollment and Retention. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩