ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — A budget amendment passed Friday in the North Carolina Senate has removed the provision that would have studied the possible closure of Elizabeth City State University.
Shutting down ECSU or removing it from the University of North Carolina’s school system was part of the Senate’s budget proposal for next year. The university was specifically mentioned in a proposed study that would measure the effect of dissolving institutions that are small and unprofitable.
Students, like Sophomore Javier Archbold, were not happy at the possibility of the university closing. ESCU was the only university to offer Archbold a scholarship, making it his best choice to receive an education. He said many other students and athletes are in similar positions.
“[The school] gives people a chance,” Archbold said early Friday. “And it’s really going to affect a lot more people more than they think it will.”
However, Senator Bill Cook (R-District 1) prepared an amendment to the budget and said Senate leadership has agreed to eliminate the provision from the budget completely.
“The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina does not need legislative prompting to study and correct declining enrollment,” Cook said.
WAVY.com has reported the school is already facing a lot of scrutiny about crime around campus and an investigation on unreported crimes that ended up with the former police chief being charged. ECSU has also been dealing with a lower enrollment in recent years — nearly 900 fewer students go there than three years ago.
But Cook said closing the school is not what’s best for Northeast North Carolina or ECSU.
“ECSU has had its fair share of problems in the past few years, but I do not think this study is the best way to begin addressing them,” Cook said.
ECSU Chancellor Charles Becton made a similar statement early Friday, before Cook’s amendment passed.
“In my view, ECSU is, and will remain, a vital part of the University of North Carolina system,” Chancellor Charles Becton said. “It has always been the premier four-year educational, economic, and cultural entity in northeastern North Carolina. During this year, when naysayers question our worth, we have been recognized nationally for our educational and other offerings.”
Cook’s legislative assistant, Jordan Hennessy, said the state senator, who serves Pasquotank County, wants to work on ways to help and improve ECSU.
“Elizabeth City State University has been a significant center for learning in the Northeast for many years,” he said. “I want to see it continue to provide higher learning opportunities for our students for many more years to come.”
And several local businesses and members of the community agree with the senator.
Tonya Spellman, who’s lived in the area a while, recently opened Mama Tee’s Diner right next to campus. While other college towns celebrate the school in their community, she says Elizabeth City has no school spirit.
“Don’t give up on it,” Spellman said. “Let’s try to save it. That will actually build better rapport. That will get the students excited and that will make other people want to come to Elizabeth City State University.”
The president of the UNC system has not commented on the specifics of the proposal.