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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NCCU puts brakes on growth to reassess its needs

After six years of unrivaled enrollment growth, N.C. Central University's infrastructure is feeling the effects.
On a campus where enrollment has increased 50 percent in the last seven years, there aren't enough beds for all those heads, or enough staff members in several departments that serve student needs, officials say.

So NCCU, the fastest-growing UNC system campus since 2000, is now tapping the brakes. University leaders aim to enroll no more than 8,533 students this fall, the same number as a year ago, said Provost Beverly Washington Jones.

"We need to make sure our infrastructure is in place," Jones said. "It's going to be important that we look at this growth phenomenon."

NCCU officials plan to use the 2007-08 school year to reassess staffing, technology and housing issues.

NCCU's housing stock is pinched; there are 2,900 total dorm spaces on campus, and two old residence halls that, taken together, hold about 800 students, are not being used. Those halls, Chidley and Latham, are both in disrepair, their futures uncertain, said Frances Graham, NCCU's vice chancellor for student affairs.

NCCU's pause for reassessment comes as the public university system does the same thing. NCCU was one of seven UNC-system campus designated in 2000 as "focused growth" institutions. They were told to put greater emphasis on recruitment in order to increase enrollment. Seven years later, the university system is pausing as well to reflect on the enrollment boom and to re-think its growth process through an initiative dubbed "UNC Tomorrow."

"As we admit more students, we have to help more students be successful," said Alan Mabe, the UNC system's vice president for academic planning and university-school programs.


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