UNC Board of Governors raises cap on out-of-state admissions at UNC System HBCUs

By: - April 7, 2022 11:00 am

More out-of-state students will soon be able to attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the UNC System.

On Thursday the UNC System Board of Governors voted to raise the caps on out-of-state admissions  at three of the system’s five HBCUS – North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central University and Elizabeth City State University.

As Policy Watch has reported, the universities have lobbied for this change and each would benefit for different reasons. The cap increase is also a testament to the appeal of the system’s HBCUs and their special place within it.

To ensure qualified North Carolinians can receive the greatest benefit from UNC System schools, out-of-state admissions at most campuses are currently capped at 18%. Schools can be penalized if they admit a higher percentage of incoming first-year students from out of state. (The NC School of the Arts and the School of Science and Math have a different cap because they are specialized schools.)

N.C. A&T is one of three UNC System HBCUs that will be able to admit more out of state students as the UNC System Board of Governors has voted to lift the cap on out-of-state students.

Last year, the UNC Board of Governors raised that cap to 25% at all five of the system’s HBCUs.

At its meeting at Western Carolina University on Thursday, the system’s board of governors approved raising the cap to 35% at A&T and Central and to 50 percent at Elizabeth City State University. The cap at Fayetteville State University and Winston-Salem State University will remain at 25%.

A&T, already the nation’s largest HBCU, is also the most successful in North Carolina. Historically large private donations and its eight-year capital campaign recently generated a record $181 million in giving to the Greensboro-based university. Fall 2021 enrollment was 13,332 – up 6% over 2019. The school is already meeting its obligation of admitting as many well qualified North Carolinians as it can, administrators say. But they say they’re turning away too many well qualified out-of-state students because of the current cap. Raising that cap another 10% should help with that as the school continues to grow.

A&T currently has 9,589 NC students, according to data kept my the university. It also has students from 48 U.S. states, U.S. territories and Washington D.C. along with students from 100 foreign countries. This year its freshman class entered with an average GPA of 3.7 and the highest SAT/ACT scores in the school’s history.

While most of the system’s HBCUs have reported rising admissions in the last few years, NCCU’s fall 2021 enrollment was 7,953 – down 1% from 2019. From concerns about safety around the Durham campus to its location in the most expensive city of any system HBCU, the system continues to explore the reason admissions have dropped off.

Raising the cap for out-of-state students should help the school to shore up its numbers, UNC System President Peter Hans told Policy Watch in an interview last month. That’s good for the health of universities as a whole, Hans said.

“Out of state students on the whole have higher GPAs,” Hans said. “They hopefully stay in North Carolina, adding to our talent pool. There’s a financial benefit, not only in the form of, necessarily, the tuition and enrollment of course, but support for the auxiliary operations – housing, dining, athletics, transportation – that campuses are responsible for.”

Elizabeth City State’s fall 2021 enrollment was up 2.6% to 2,054, the largest enrollment the school has seen since 2013. But that’s still far from its peak of about 3,000 students.

That could have to do with the campus’s “unique geography,” Hans said. The university “really is part of the tidewater area of Virginia,” he said.

The university had 324 full-time first-year students last fall – 218 in-state students and 106 out-of-state. With its new 50 percent out-of-state admissions cap, ECSU estimates it would have been able to accept another 112 out-of-state full-time first-year students.

ECSU Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon praised the new, higher cap in a statement Thursday.

“ECSU provides access to a quality, affordable education, which changes the lives of our graduates and their families forever,” Dixon said. ” We have the capacity to accept more students, and I thank the Board of Governors for lifting the out-of-state enrollment cap, which is important for our continued growth.  All eligible incoming students from North Carolina will continue to be the top priority for admittance to ECSU, and we look forward to the opportunity to develop more leaders from beyond our borders.”



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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.