An innovative partnership

Jul. 01, 2014 @ 04:45 PM

A couple days ago, we applauded efforts by Durham Technical Community College to respond to the often challenging financial realities many of its students face, with free bus passes and even a food pantry.

Now, Durham Tech and N. C. Central University have forged a unique partnership that will, as NCCU Associate Vice Chancellor Monica Leach put it, “open new doors of opportunities” for students to further their education.

Eagle Connect is a pioneering “residential, dual enrollment, transfer admissions program,” as a statement from NCCU characterizes it.  It offers bright prospects for students in many ways.

At its core, it will smooth the transition for students in the program from the environment of the two-year associate degree program at the exclusively commuter campus of Durham Tech to the more intense, often residential environment of a four-year public university.

That should benefit Durham Tech by enticing more students to enroll with the ultimate goal of a bachelor’s degree and benefit NCCU by increasing the flow – already substantial – of bright, motivated students from Durham Tech into its student body.  About 60 Durham Tech graduates move on to NCCU each year already and many later go on to graduate school.

For students, it combines a key attraction of community college – lower academic costs for those first two years – with a well-mapped path to the final two years of their degree.

Students in Eagle Connect – there will be 26 the first year – will live on the NCCU campus while they study at Durham Tech’s Briggs Avenue complex about a mile away. They will have access to academic advising and student support services aimed at helping them meet the academic requirements to transfer to the four-year campus.

Brandon Johnson, 18, one of the first Eagle Connect students, alluded to the benefits Monday as school officials signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding to establish the program. “I can go to Durham Tech and stay on campus at NCCU and get the best of both worlds,” he said.

Durham Tech President Bill Ingram characterized the new program as “just an extension of partnerships we have enjoyed” with NCCU. “We are neighbors in a very real sense and we recognize the responsibility that we have to serve our neighborhood.”

“This is a historic moment,” NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White said Monday as the two schools signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding to establish the program. Perhaps accentuating the historic nature, the signing came just days before Saturday’s 104th anniversary of James E. Shepard’s welcoming the first 130 students to the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race, which evolved into NCCU.

And while Eagle Connect is an innovative program – patterned on one Ingram saw in Indiana two years ago – officials noted that the two schools have been collaborating in various ways for more than 40 years.

This latest collaboration is a reminder of what a boon to Durham it is to be home to these two schools.