Updated as of 7:27 p.m. Aug. 14 to include a seven-minute preview of President Book's exclusive.
Elon University President Connie Book sat down with Elon News Network’s Naomi Washington to discuss plans for campus expansion, tuition, and admissions and diversity policies after the Supreme Court’s affirmative action and student loan forgiveness rulings.
According to Book, one of the highest student interest projects breaking ground this academic year is the new residence hall in the East Neighborhood. This will be the fourth hall in the neighborhood and will serve as its common building — coming equipped with community gathering spaces, staff offices, community director offices and 90 new beds for freshmen.
Book said the amount of new beds reflects the university’s “slow-growth” model, in which it aims to grow by about 25 more students each year. In addition, Book listed multiple campus-wide community projects, including the creation of an outdoor patio behind Belk library, renovation of the McMichael Science Center and expansion of the School of Health Sciences Francis Center — as well as its connection to the rest of campus via a lit road path.
The School of Health Sciences is entering into phase three of its four-phase renovation plan, adding in food locations, labs, study rooms and gathering spaces. Elon is entering its third year of the nursing program and will have 170 nursing students this fall.
The creation and implementation of HealthEU will also pave the way for a 135,000 square-foot health center located in the Innovation Quad, which will house a recreation center, counseling services, mood studies and nutrition health facilities.
According to Book, a local need for childcare will also place a childcare center on campus for students, faculty and staff by the end of 2024. The facility will start with providing care for newborns through 2-year-olds.
“There is a crisis in childcare because of COVID,” Book said. “We in the county — Guilford County is faced with it too — there is just not enough child care being provided. So Elon wants to be a part of that solution.”
Affirmative Action, Admission Decisions
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action and student loan forgiveness June 29 and 30, respectively. In doing so, universities will no longer be able to consider race as a factor in admissions and students will not receive additional, federal financial relief.
Yet, Book said Elon anticipated the court’s decisions and they would not greatly affect Elon’s admissions process.
“Elon always had a holistic view on admission, so we're looking at a holistic portfolio of students. We will continue our practice in that,” Book said. “Our commitment to being enriched through a diverse class stays the same. We will follow the law, but we will use new tools to ensure that we're successful. … We know it's critical for the learning environment. We benefit from the community from the richness of different perspectives and create the kind of learning that we value.”
Book also said Elon is working to place recruiters in diverse high school environments, as well as add admissions counselors focused on diversifying the student body.
With tuition increasing over 5% for the 2022-23 school year, and roughly 9% the year before that, Book said Elon’s budget is primarily tuition dependent. Therefore, in order to expand upon campus and staff, the university needs to increase tuition prices.
Even with the increases, Book said Elon is still about $15,000 less than its peer set of institutions.
“Sometimes schools have big endowments in the billions of dollars. Elon is not like that. Elon is very much a pull yourself up by your bootstrap,” Book said. “So we're really conscientious with all of our budgeting decisions.”
According to Book, tuition is decided through a shared governance process where it’s decided by a committee, Elon’s Vice President of Finance Janet Williams, the provost’s office and representation from staff and faculty.
“We have been able to reduce the student's average debt at graduation and increase their starting salaries,” Book said. “I will say as the cost increases, it is to add value, and we are seeing real data that the value is increasing to an Elon degree.”
Heading into the 2023-24 school year, Book said she welcomes the class of 2027 and is excited to continue Elon’s various projects, initiatives and plans.
“I do feel that we are grateful to be a few years out from the pandemic. Every year is feeling more comfortable, more normal,” Book said. “Elon is a school that has a lot of ambition. And so I'm looking forward to being back with the community with all of these new efforts in play.”
Abigail Hobbs contributed to the reporting of this story.