By: Diana Matthews, The News Reporter
Educators in Columbus County and in Wilmington say they are “very excited” about a new agreement that will guarantee university admission to qualified community college graduates.
Southeastern Community College President Tony Clarke signed an articulation agreement Monday with Jose Sartarelli, chancellor of UNC-Wilmington. The “Pathway to Excellence” program will allow SCC students to earn their first two years of credits toward a four-year degree locally, then move into the junior class at UNCW.
Of the 4,500 to 5,000 students admitted to UNCW every year, about 1,500 are transfer students from community colleges.
“I would like to increase the number of transfer students from SCC coming to UNCW,” said Sartarelli. Seven SCC graduates are studying on the Wilmington campus this school year, “and I would like to double or triple that.” The UNCW chancellor has been negotiating the arrangements with SCC’s vice president of academic affairs, Michael Ayers.
UNCW offers outstanding programs in marine science, chemistry, business and creative writing, said Sartarelli. “We currently have the largest nursing program in the state,” and U.S. News and World Reportranked it eighth-best in the country, he said.
A new major, coastal engineering, will combine civil engineering, marine science and environmental science beginning this fall, Sartarelli said. Rather than going “to Raleigh and pay high prices for things,” he said, students “can go to Wilmington and pay a lot less and have the beach nearby, too.”
UNCW students achieve the third best graduation rate in North Carolina’s public university system, behind UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, with 73 percent of those who enroll finishing their bachelor’s degrees within six years and 58 percent finishing in four years.
The average SAT score of a UNCW student is 1,251, Sartarelli said, and honors program participants average 1,383.
To take advantage of the open door at UNCW, SCC students must earn an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degree with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. They will move into junior-year level classes alongside students who have been at UNCW for two years. Their GPA will start over being calculated from that point on toward graduation.
Previously, students applied to UNCW without a guarantee of admission, SCC director of marketing and outreach Liz McLean said. This articulation agreement guarantees admission to associate degree earners with the required average.
Pathway to Excellence differs from the Brave-Step agreement established with UNC-Pembroke in November, said McLean. Classes taken at SCC under the BraveStep program will count toward a bachelor’s degree from UNCP without a transfer process, and students enrolled in it will have both SCC and UNCP ID cards.
Students will not be enrolled simultaneously at SCC and UNCW with Pathway to Excellence.
On the occasion of the November signing, both SCC and UNCP presidents stressed that taking two years of classes at the local community college is a cost savings and also helps students who aren’t sure they are ready to go to a university directly from high school.
Clarke pointed out in his remarks Monday that the new pathway with UNCW will not recruit students away from SCC. “Significantly, this agreement also supports students completing their associate of arts/associate of science degree. We all know that we have great students. A lot of different universities want our students. But not all universities say, ‘Finish your associate of arts/associate of science degree, then come to us.’ And that’s an important distinction,” he said, because if a student cannot complete the bachelor’s degree due to some adverse events, they have an important credential already.
Sartarelli said UNCW also has about $350,000 in scholarship money available for community college students transferring into the university. “I’d like SCC to be part of that,” he said. Clarke said he and his colleagues will make sure to encourage SCC students to apply for the aid.