Partnerships ease path to college degree

Two realities of modern life and today’s economy create a challenge for young men and women from low-income and even middle-class households.

Most jobs other than the most menial, jobs that offer the prospect of a decent income and a comfortable lifestyle, demand more than just a high school education. At the same time, the cost of college education continues to rise, not just at private schools but also for public colleges and universities as the percentage of funding from the state stagnates or declines.

For many high school graduates, one way of navigating those conflicting challenges is to take advantage of the generally lower cost of community colleges for the first two years of higher education. North Carolina’s well-regarded network of community colleges and the campuses of the UNC system have been steadily working to strengthen partnerships that will help students follow that path.

The latest of such partnerships links North Carolina Central University and nearby Vance-Granville Community College. The schools’ agreement will allow students to begin study at the community college’s Henderson campus, complete a two-year associate’s degree in applied science, then pursue a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or family and consumer services at NCCU.

The two schools already have a similar agreement that leads to a bachelor’s in criminal justice from NCCU. The school has or is developing such two-plus-two programs with neighboring Alamance and Wake Technical community colleges.

And Durham Technical and Community College partners with UNC-Chapel Hill through the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP). “The goal of C-STEP is to identify high-achieving, low-to moderate-income students who would not otherwise attend a selective college or university; to enroll these students in the Associate in Arts/Science program at one of the partnering community colleges; to mentor these students through successful completion of an Associate degree (AA/AS); to transfer these students, as juniors, to UNC-Chapel Hill; and to ensure their successful completion of a baccalaureate degree,” according to the Durham Tech website.

NCCU’s interim chancellor, Jonson Akinleye, hailed the latest agreement with VGCC as yet another way to help students complete a four-year degree. He and other university leaders, he said, “look forward to seeing these students soar to graduation so they can begin to educate and inspire the newest generation of North Carolina citizens.”

VGCC president Stelfanie Williams voiced similar sentiments. “Providing clear academic pathways from the community college to the university level is one important way in which we support our Vanguards so that they can achieve professional success," she said.

We’re fortunate to have leaders in the community college and state university system that are so energetically expanding partnerships that will help broaden the educational pathways and life opportunities for our high school graduates.