BOONE — Appalachian State is hoping to receive $7 million in additional state appropriations in the 2019-20 fiscal year to support increased summer class enrollment — which university leaders say could help more students graduate “on time.”

Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte outlined the goal during a budget presentation at a March 28 ASU Board of Trustees’ Business Affairs Committee meeting.

The University of North Carolina system has identified enrollment funding for on-campus undergraduate summer courses as a budget priority for the 2019-21 biennium. The UNC system Board of Governors approved budget priorities at its Jan. 25 meeting, just as the General Assembly’s long session began. The state legislature enacts a two-year state budget bill during long sessions in odd-numbered years, with budget adjustments passed during the short sessions of even-numbered years.

“Thanks to each institution’s hard work and the General Assembly’s continued support of the UNC system, we reached a five-year graduation rate of 70.2 percent in 2017-18 ... 8 percentage points ahead of the national average,” the board’s budget priorities document stated.

“Four-year graduation rates have also increased significantly over this period, but still hover around 50 percent. When it comes to transfer students who enter as juniors, about 30 percent finish their undergraduate degree within two years of transferring.”

The UNC system is requesting funding to expand enrollment in summer courses so that students may use the entire calendar year to make progress toward a degree, it said.

“UNC system data indicates that students who earn credit in the summer are much more likely to graduate and to graduate on time,” the document stated. “Today’s students, many of whom are working adults, active duty military and returning veterans, need the flexibility to earn credits year-round so that they can complete a degree in a timely fashion.”

Under current funding models, the board said, state appropriations and financial aid operate on the traditional academic calendar of fall and spring semesters — excluding courses delivered on campus in the summer. Instead, summer enrollment is receipt supported, it said, which restricts the type and number of courses that can be offered.

“The lack of funding has left summer sessions under-utilized and the physical plant under-leveraged,” the document stated. “Bringing summer funding in line with fall and spring allows institutions greater flexibility to eliminate bottle neck courses and add additional sections that juniors and seniors need to graduate.”

The UNC system is seeking recurring enrollment funding for on-campus undergraduate credit hours delivered in the summer, which it said will “bring summer tuition costs in-line with current in-state tuition rates, starting in summer 2020.”

The board requested $43.6 million for summer enrollment funding in 2019-20 — including $7.3 million for Appalachian State, the highest recommended appropriation among 15 UNC system campuses (the UNC School of the Arts and School of Science and Math were not included).

The funding recommendations were calculated using the existing enrollment model and were based on actual student credit hours enrolled in the summer of 2018, the system said. Appalachian’s appropriation was based on 37,322 credit hours — more than 10,000 more credit hours than the next highest institution by summer credit hours, N.C. State.

Appalachian State Provost Darrell Kruger said that Appalachian enrolls about 6,000 students in the summer — although many are through online courses.

“It’s higher than you’d expect,” Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts said.

Scott Lampe — an ASU trustee, chair of the Business Affairs Committee and former member of the UNC Board of Governors — said he viewed summer school as a “huge opportunity,” providing more pay for faculty, more use out of campus buildings and more revenues from auxiliary services such as dining and the bookstore.

“If we could get a couple thousand more kids on campus every summer, the world would be a better place in every facet of the university,” Lampe said.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget, released earlier this month, included $25 million for state funding support for summer enrollment, in addition to $5 million for summer scholarships (the UNC system had requested $7 million for summer scholarships).

But Cooper’s proposals are not binding, and the legislature will have the final say.

“There’s a long way to go on this,” Forte said.

The request comes as the UNC system is also seeking a shift in the overall enrollment growth funding model, which heretofore has been based on projected figures. The system is planning a shift to enrollment growth funding based on actual credit hours completed in arrears (including summer).

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