Streamlining a college pathway

Mar. 07, 2014 @ 11:45 AM

For many years, the University of North Carolina and the state’s community college system have had policies to encourage and ease the transfer of students from community college to the university system after two years.

Late last month, the two systems forged a new agreement that updates those policies and is designed to make the path from community college to four-year institution even smoother.

That’s welcome news for thousands of students who enter a community college with an eye toward eventually completing a four-year degree.  They may be driven by convenience, cost or the opportunity to transition from high school to college in a more individually focused and nurturing environment.

“Nearly 24,000 students who began their studies at a community college are now undergraduates on a UNC campus, accounting for more than half of all UNC transfer students,” UNC President Tom Ross said in a release announcing the agreement.  “This revised agreement is an important step forward in streamlining the transfer process and providing opportunities for more North Carolinians to attain a baccalaureate degree.”

As positive a step as the new agreement is, N. C. Central University and Durham Technical Community College are innovatively ramping up cooperation another notch.

The two institutions – barely a mile apart near downtown Durham – are ironing out details of an arrangement to allow Durham Tech students who intend to transfer to actually live on the NCCU campus for their two years at the community college.

The agreement, inspired by a program Durham Tech President Bill Ingram observed in Indiana, would be a first in North Carolina.

The students who enroll “will truly be Eagles, so the transition from the community college to, indeed, our environment will be a seamless one” NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White told the school’s trustees last week.

Officials hope to have the first 50 students in the joint program this fall. “If it works well, it could be a model for other colleges and universities in communities and in the state,” Ingram told The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash. “We think we’re on to something.”
So do we.

And it certainly is in line with the philosophy driving the revised statewide agreement between the university and community college systems.

 “Our community colleges are built on the idea of taking students from where they are, as far as they can go,” said Linwood Powell, State Board of Community Colleges chairman, “As increasing numbers of students choose to begin their higher education journey at our community colleges, this agreement continues our legacy of providing hope and opportunity to North Carolinians who walk through our doors.”

At the state level and especially here in Durham, that hope and opportunity are welcome to those aspiring students that realize the critical importance of a four-year degree but need or choose to start their journey at a community college.

At a time when we are discouraged by many state policy decisions in education, these are advances to celebrate.