An exclusive interview with the Spartan Echo and the National Broadcasting Society (full video below)
by Tiana K. Allen and Malik Glaspie
In an exclusive interview with the Spartan Echo and the Norfolk State University chapter of the National Broadcasting Society on Sept. 29, President and CEO Eddie N. Moore, Jr. touched on several topics regarding tuition, fees, federal support, improvements and Norfolk State’s future.
One of President Moore’s primary goals in his investiture address is to raise student retention and graduation rates. NSU’s accrediting agency, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), will be focusing on low graduation rate institutions and high default rate institutions. While he believes that Norfolk State’s retention and graduation rates are low, they are not that low to be one of the first schools to be reviewed. President Moore believes that he has time to help raise graduation rates which he ties directly to increased retention rates.
“One percent increase in our retention rate…generates about 1 million dollars of revenue for the institution. It costs us far less to retain the student than it does to recruit a replacement. It’s just a smart practice to emphasize retention and ultimately graduation rates,” said Moore.
Moore also identified accountability as a primary institutional goal in his investiture address. Moore said those goals are the responsibility of the Office of the President. He will make sure that each unit within the university knows what their individual goal is so that Norfolk State can meet its common goal.
“I am going to divide up the institutional goals and make sure that the liberal arts knows what their piece of the goal is, that CSET…knows what their piece is, so that everyone has their own set of goals, that if they all hit or exceed, then we will make the common goal. I expect the deans, I truly expect them, to move that down to departments,” said Moore.
After mentioning increasing enrollment as one of his three main goals in his investiture address, Moore assured the Echo and NBS that the strain on current infrastructure, dorm space and the services that Norfolk State provides students is more of a perception than a reality.
“Residency ratio is down to 92 percent, which means we still have quite a few beds available for the increased enrollment. We are planning it a lot better for next year. The issue that we had is good news in a way. We were able to attract more male students than we thought,” said Moore.
Norfolk State is ecstatic over a significant increase in enrollment this fall, but doesn’t believe incoming freshmen in the upcoming spring semester will significantly add to the total enrollment.
“The good news is, about 500 students are scheduled to graduate in December. So you take our existing enrollment of, let’s say 53-to-54-hundred, you take out 500, that brings you down to 4,900. Then there are the students that just don’t come back. We lose students. The long and the short of it is that we are projecting to be slightly above 5,000 for the spring,” said Moore.
It is not known if tuition will increase, however, the state is forecasting a shortfall for funding. The built-in formula that the state has for funding institutions is 3 percent per year. Current tuition rates are relying on the funding and the government has already backed off on state-wide pay raises, so there may be an increase in tuition, according to Moore.
With the cost of higher education becoming an important election year issue, the Echo and NBS asked Moore about federal funding.
Moore stressed that the President of the United States does not hold the power to make decisions on higher education. Presidents are able to make decisions by executive order, but the House and Senate are in charge of the final decision.
“The Senate may switch parties because it’s so close, but the House may remain Republican controlled. Therefore I would say…that if we have a Republican president, it’s more likely that funding for higher ed will be adversely affected; if we have a Democratic president, I think that we will be the same (on federal funding), maybe a little more,” said Moore.
With word circulating about presidential nominee Hillary Clinton making community college education free, Moore said that the concept of free higher education is nonexistent and that even with the lowering of community college tuition, Norfolk State would most likely not be affected.
“You can’t make a community college charge nothing. What I understand is that there will be additional federal aid that will cover families of students that have incomes of less than $125,000. The good news for Norfolk State, as I understand the plan, is our tuition is so close to a community college tuition, that if they allow four-year institutions to accept the amount that they’re sending to community colleges, we should not be adversely affected,” said Moore.
The last time President Moore sat down with the Echo, he stated that many of Norfolk State’s improvements were behind closed doors, invisible to the public. Moore now says that one of the improvements that Norfolk State made did backfire on them. The new pipes that were installed for the dormitories’ heating and cooling system has led to an increase of humidity within their buildings, which has caused the dormitories more inconveniences. Now, the university is looking into limiting the heating and cooling control that residents are able to have in order to cease this problem.
When asked about Brown Hall, Moore said that it is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2017. One of its first occupants may be the school’s theater program. Brown Hall is being constructed in almost a modular way, so that each section is put into place separately to potentially cut down construction time. Norfolk State plans to not tear down the remainder of the original Brown Hall until the new building is complete so that no one will be inconvenienced.
Moore also explained that there are many other features the campus could have in the future, but refuses to build because of the risk of raising student fees. In regard to this, his solution for lack of funds, much of that due to new regulations limiting the amount athletic programs can obtain from student fees, was for Norfolk State programs to establish some form of fundraising.
“Everyone is under the same rule. We are attempting not to raise the student fees any during this process as it relates to athletics, but to hopefully increase the number of students we have, and we have a very active fundraising campaign. We are considering hiring an additional staff person that will have split duties of raising (funds for) athletics as well as raising money for the institution,” said Moore.
Moore addressed the possibility of Norfolk State expanding to locations beyond its current campus and the Higher Education Center that it shares with Old Dominion University. Although the university can foresee the possibility of expansion, he does not see it as an option any time soon.
“We have accreditation visits scheduled in a little less than two years and every one of your sites have to be fully up to standard at the time of the visit and I just don’t think the 18 months or so that we have before the visitors come is enough time for us to accomplish that. We may be planning for it, but I do not believe that it’s going to happen before the 2018 accreditation visit,” said Moore.
Moore wrapped-up the interview with gratitude and words of encouragement for students and alumni of Norfolk State. He encouraged more alumni to start investing in Norfolk State for the future Spartans. Currently, only 11 percent of alumni donate funds back to the university.
“We need more of our alumni to invest in Norfolk State,” Moore said. “It only takes about $500 for me to keep another student in school and that’s how close many of our students are in their financial need….so we have to get more support from some of our alumni and friends.”
Nonetheless, he envisions Norfolk State’s future as a bright one and said the effects of positive change can already be felt across the campus.
“I would like to thank everyone for choosing Norfolk State as their institution of choice. Records would indicate that, more than ever, we have students that really, really wanted to come to Norfolk State and we’re excited about that,” Moore said. “I can see the change in the spirit. Certain faculty members have told me that they can see in the classroom the change of students’ attitude.”
Videography by Maya Young, National Broadcasting Society/AERho