2020 Enrollment Plan

NC State’s Enrollment Strategy

This enrollment plan outlines primary strategies for fulfilling NC State’s mission to serve the people of North Carolina and its special role within the UNC system as a research-extensive university.  It is not intended to predict future enrollment passively by applying historical trends to demographic trends.  Rather,  this enrollment plan suggests strategies for actively managing the University’s enrollment to achieve the following aims:

  • Improve the quality and standing of NC State’s academic programs.
  • Ensure sufficient access for North Carolinians to programs that are relatively unique in the UNC system, while emphasizing competitive excellence in programs offered by other campuses.

Consistent with NC State’s strategic plan, this long-range enrollment plan calls for changes in the composition of its student body, notably expanding the proportion of graduate and professional students particularly at the doctoral level.  Among undergraduates, the plan will increase transfers and non-NC residents, and facilitate their transfer among colleges.  Growth is managed in a way that maintains the University’s strength in science and technology while honoring its commitment to excellence in a comprehensive range of disciplines, particularly those that enrich our responses to the grand challenges facing society.

Total Size

Continued growth is an attractive enrollment option that would accommodate the expanding North Carolina population  and provide new faculty positions and other resources to expand and enhance programs and services.  However, projected economic conditions suggest that reductions in the University’s base budget may exceed increased revenues triggered by enrollment growth and dramatically reduce  resources per student.  To protect the quality of the educational programs at NC State, we must slow enrollment growth to fit available resources, invest in strategies to increase non-state funding, and better align enrollment with resources.  To this end, this enrollment plan is based on the following strategies:

  • Limit growth in undergraduate programs, where state appropriations and tuition are the only sources of support.  Instead, emphasize growth in graduate programs that are linked to federally and privately funded research initiatives, that are supported with premium tuition, or where students are self-supporting.
  • Alleviate pressure on colleges with service teaching responsibilities and on student support services by limiting lower division enrollment growth.

Graduate Education

Because NC State is one of only two research-extensive universities in the UNC system, the expansion of graduate education – particularly doctoral education – is our highest priority for enrollment growth.  Our goal is to increase graduate enrollment as long as there is sufficient demand that we can meet with resources adequate to sustain the quality of education.   In particular, this plan calls for these strategies:

  • Create ambitious doctoral enrollment targets, especially those related to strategic research initiatives and those that strengthen multidisciplinary initiatives.
  • Build professional master’s programs that provide career development opportunities for working adults and that address unmet economic development needs.
  • Leverage degree-granting authority and faculty expertise through partnerships with other universities.
  • Provide sufficient resources needed to support graduate enrollment projections, including GSSP and stipends, as well as tenure-track faculty and research space.

Many of NC State’s doctoral graduates join the faculties of universities across the nation and world.  We share with other doctoral institutions a responsibility for building a faculty diverse in background and perspective, ready to teach and mentor new generations of students, which will be increasingly diverse themselves.  To that end, NC State will:

  • Recruit and mentor graduate students representing a variety of academic perspectives and racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic backgrounds.

Undergraduate Programs

At the undergraduate level, NC State’s focus will be on improving student success and the quality of the undergraduate experience.  The greatest threat to student success and program quality is continuing erosion of the resources necessary to provide adequate faculty, academic support services, and equipped classrooms.  Undergraduate education depends on state appropriations, tuition, and private support, all of which may be very limited for several years.  Accordingly, NC State will limit enrollment growth in undergraduate programs.   This will require that we:

  • Limit freshmen enrollment to improve selectivity and student success.
  • Expand co-curricular programs and student support services, such as advising, counseling, and career services.
  • Sharpen our competitive edge for the most highly qualified students by providing sufficient merit aid needed to recruit more highly qualified freshmen.
  • Provide sufficient capacity to meet demand for unique programs, while emphasizing quality in areas duplicated on other UNC campuses.

Nonetheless, NC State is committed to providing access for North Carolinians to NC State’s undergraduate programs as much as possible through improved student retention and graduation rates, and through increased transfer enrollment.  First, by reducing time to degree, we will free up capacity to serve more students, and, over time, award as many undergraduate degrees as we do now.  We will be able to manage course offerings more effectively and provide financial aid to a larger number of students.   At the same time we redouble our efforts to support students’ success in their original college of choice, we will facilitate and plan capacity for the nearly 20% of students who change colleges during their undergraduate career.  Second, by reducing freshmen and increasing transfers, we can provide degree opportunities for the same number of students while relieving pressure on service departments and academic support services.  The following steps  would support these strategies:

  • Develop institution- and program-specific articulation agreements to facilitate the transfer of students prepared to be successful at NC State.
  • Develop recruiting, orientation, and student support programs designed especially for transfer students.
  • Provide sufficient financial aid to provide access to all qualified North Carolinians including transfers.
  • Take deliberate steps to improve graduation rates.
  • Reduce barriers faced by undergraduates wishing to change majors (intra campus transfers).

A diverse student body strengthens the educational experience by encouraging interactions among students from different racial and ethnic, social and economic, geographic, and religious backgrounds.  In and outside of the classroom, diversity enhances the commerce of ideas, values, and perspectives.  At the undergraduate level, NC State will expand diversity by encouraging transfers from community colleges and by increasing the proportion of non-resident freshmen.  The following strategies would support these purposes:

  • Develop transfer programs with feeder institutions best positioned to contribute to the diversity of NC State’s student body.
  • Increase out-of-state recruiting and enrollment.
  • Increase resources available for scholarships and need-based financial aid.

Teaching and Learning with Technology

Instructional technology can contribute substantially to the quality of teaching and learning.  Technology can stimulate innovative teaching, enrich learning resources for students, facilitate interactions among students and faculty, and help us leverage our resources to give access to more students.  Distance education, blended courses and programs, and high-impact educational content can raise program quality, student engagement, and efficiency through the following strategies:

  • Develop distance education programs in high-demand disciplines where NC State has strength.
  • Promote innovative uses of instructional technology to enrich classroom teaching and student engagement.
  • Develop a strategy to improve efficient use of classrooms for increasing numbers of blended learning courses and programs.