Opening more paths to degree, NCCU creates link to Alamance Community College

Firming up ties with another of Durham’s neighboring counties, N.C. Central University officials on Tuesday signed a joint-degree agreement with Alamance Community College.

It should lead quickly to the offering of so-called “two plus two” degree programs at the two institutions, with interested Alamance Community College students earning an associate’s degree from that school before completing NCCU coursework for a bachelor’s degree.

Eventually, degrees should be available in pharmaceutical sciences, computer science and business, accounting, business and marketing, business and management, hospitality and tourism, early childhood education, and child development and family relations.

Alamance Community College has existing associate’s-level programs that parallel and could feed into bachelor’s-level counterparts at Central.

“There is no limit to the number of programs that we would do, as we begin to plan, but we’re going to take it one step at a time, one program at a time, and continue to introduce more,” NCCU Interim Chancellor Johnson Akinleye said.

He added that a criminal justice joint-degree offering is also possible because for Central it’s “almost turnkey” thanks to prior experience with Vance-Granville Community College and Wake Technical Community College.

Akinleye and other members of the NCCU traveled to the Alamance Community College campus in Graham on Tuesday afternoon to sign the agreement.

The interim chancellor credited Alamance’s president, Algie Gatewood, with prodding officials at NCCU starting in 2014 to “strengthen the relationship” between the two institutions.

Before signing the deal on Tuesday, Gatewood vowed that his school will help market N.C. Central, spreading the word about its offerings to prospective students in the region between the Triangle and the Triad.

He recalled that as he was growing up in Anson County, a rural community on the state’s border with South Carolina, a visit to Durham in the company of family had seemed like the equivalent of “going to New York” and that N.C. Central was the first college he’d ever known anything about.

Nowadays, many would-be students don’t just have to deal with the cost of going to college, they also have to overcome the “belief gap” that undercuts their ambitions, said Gatewood, who earned his degrees from Livingston College, Appalachian State University and N.C. State University.

“We can help students get financial aid,” he said, noting that the schools intend to offer a $2,500 scholarship to anyone in the program who completes an associate’s degree and begins their NCCU coursework. “But if one does not believe that he or she belongs on a college campus, you can have all the money in the world and it will not make a difference.”

The program’s framework could help with that too, as NCCU will set up its end so that “we either come here and offer” the necessary bachelor’s courses, or that students can take them online, Akinleye said.

Neither administrator set a firm date for launching the first degree program. Akinleye said the goal is to have it up and running “as soon as possible” and that staff from the two institutions are already working on the behind-the-scenes preparations.

Central and Vance-Granville signed the agreement for their degree in criminal justice late in 2015. That program now has 17 students, Akinleye said.

Along with Wake Tech, Vance-Granville and now Alamance, NCCU also has a “dual enrollment” arrangement with Durham Tech. State and UNC system officials have encouraged UNC’s universities to join forces with campuses N.C. Community Colleges to make it easier for students starting in two-year programs to go on to get a four-year degree.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg