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UNC-system officials decided Thursday to override a mandatory reduction of Elizabeth City State University's budget despite the fact that the school exceeded the system's 18 percent out-of-state enrollment cap for the second year in a row.

The UNC-system Board of Governors' Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously to spare ECSU from any monetary penalty because the university already has had its budget trimmed because of the statewide budget reduction earlier this fiscal year.

ECSU's freshman class is 19.4 percent out-of-state students, exceeding the cap by 1.4 percent, or six students. Last year, the University went over the cap by one student.

The board determined that the violations were minimal and questioned the necessity of automatically penalizing universities that exceed the cap.

Board member Jim Phillips said that there is no sign that schools such as ECSU intentionally are going over the limit and that, for this reason, the automatic penalty should be reviewed. "I think all of us know and accept that admissions is as much an art as a science," he said.

UNC-system President Molly Broad said that while it is important to enforce the cap in spirit, she acknowledges the difficulties universities face in predicting how many accepted out-of-state applicants will enroll.

Broad said she would draft a recommendation for how board members could examine better the enrollment violations on a case-by-case basis. No deadline for the recommendation was specified.

Thomas Griffin, director of admissions at N.C. State University, said N.C. State rarely exceeds its cap.

But Griffin said he thinks reviewing overenrollment on a case-by-case basis would relieve some stress for admissions officials, who often have a hard time accurately guessing how many and which students will attend.

Jerry Lucido, UNC-Chapel Hill director of undergraduate admissions, said he and other admissions officers are under a great deal of pressure because of the automatic penalty. "One year, we went over the cap by a tenth of a percent, and it was a major concern," he said.

Lucido said that admissions is not an exact science and that the group of students that enrolls often depends on the economy. "It's very hard to hit the nail on the head every year," he said, adding that giving the process some flexibility would allow for normal fluctuation.

If admissions officers were not as worried about overshooting the number of out-of-state students by a fraction of a percent, it would allow them to accept more deserving students without worrying as much about the yield rate, Lucido said.

He added that this might be a prime time to start a dialogue about the cap in general. "It's time we started thinking creatively about the enrollment cap," he said. "We're turning down extraordinary students."

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