Coastal Carolina University’s enrollment and budget outlook remain worse than what university officials want them to be, but the projections are not nearly as dire as initially feared.
With spring classes underway, enrollment is down 2.9%, Coastal Provost Dan Ennis said Thursday at Coastal’s board of trustees meeting.
“There were an unusual number of deferrals. Most of those deferrals chose to defer the whole year ... [but] we picked up a little bit of lost ground,” Ennis said, referring to enrollment being down 3.8% in the fall.
Ennis said midyear transfers and better retention rates helped.
“But those of you who have been on this journey with us, that’s a better scenario than what we expected,” Ennis said.
Overall freshman applications from both in- and out-of-state students rose 6.4%, but out-of-state applications were up significantly. Ennis said they would be focusing on ways to recruit more in-state students.
“It was a challenge getting into the high schools in the fall,” said Amanda Craddock, the associate provost for enrollment management. She noted that the challenges are “the same everywhere,” including decreases in underrepresented populations and Pell grant-eligible students.
According to CCU officials, legislative liaison Brant Branham reported that the average loss in college enrollments across the state is down 13%.
Coastal Chief Financial Officer David Frost told the trustees that not much has changed in the budget since December.
“We’re still short of last year, but well over what we thought our budget was going to be,” Frost said.
Thursday’s meeting was Michael Benson’s first as president of the university. The main topic of discussion was the recent approval of the renovations to both the Library Learning Complex and Kimbel Library.
“I would maintain that at the core of any great institution is a great library,” Benson said in a recent news release. “These projects will help to further improve and invigorate the center of our campus as new and renovated spaces for students to meet, study, collaborate, and learn come to fruition within the next few years. We thank all those who have helped in the planning and funding of these projects as we continually strive to provide the best possible facilities for our students, faculty, staff and community.”
The Library Learning Complex is a $29.8 million project, funded through a local 1% sales tax and Coastal’s capital reserves. The two-story, 64,000-square-foot complex will integrate student spaces with cutting edge immersive technologies, including a virtual reality lab, data visualization and video/audio production studios. The project is slated to be complete by the fall of 2023, and renovations to Kimbel will begin thereafter.
While the Kimbel renovation plans are still in development, Coastal officials said there will be space for archives and collections, group study space, multifunction instruction areas, restroom upgrades, updated carpet and lighting, and more.
The project also includes a new HVAC system, lighting and electrical upgrades in the building, which originally opened in 1977.
Officials aim to have the Kimbel renovation done by late 2024. Kimbel’s renovations are fully funded.
Benson told the trustees that more projects will be announced this spring as they delve deeper into Coastal’s master plan and into a comprehensive campaign they would like to launch.
“Some is athletic-related, some are penny tax projects … holistically we need to look at what our needs are in terms of the strategic plan,” Benson said.
The board did get some good news about its athletics programs.
New Chanticleer Athletic Foundation Executive Director Kelly Moore said that through January, the foundation has received $1,451,000 in contributions.
Last year’s fundraising gala was made virtual due to COVID-19, and the foundation’s plan is to move that Gala to May 22 in hopes that the capacities at the event facility, Marriott Grande Dunes, will be increased to accommodate their usual crowd of 550-600 guests.
Moore said right now the Marriott only allows 300 people in their ballrooms due to social distancing.
Athletics director Matt Hogue highlighted some recent sports achievements, including Coastal being ranked No. 1 in the Sun Belt Commissioner Cup.
Recent social media analytics Hogue shared showed that from Jan. 1, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021, Coastal’s followers increased by 78%.
“The great thing is, I think once you get those followers, they don’t typically go anywhere,” Hogue said. “That’s a great jump there.”