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Expanded program means more students can start at community college, then transfer to UNC

A steady stream of visitors and students visit the Old Well on the University of North Carolina campus on Friday, October 13, 2017. On the evening of Dec. 5, Rose Vigil was walking home when, around 9:30 p.m., she felt someone come up behind her on a brick path near the Old Well.
A steady stream of visitors and students visit the Old Well on the University of North Carolina campus on Friday, October 13, 2017. On the evening of Dec. 5, Rose Vigil was walking home when, around 9:30 p.m., she felt someone come up behind her on a brick path near the Old Well. rwillett@newsobserver.com

UNC-Chapel Hill has announced an expansion of its transfer program for community college students, adding new partnerships with Guilford Technical and Central Piedmont community colleges.

The initiative, announced Friday morning, was made possible with a $1.13 million grant from the Glaxo SmithKline Foundation, and will include new support programs for students majoring in fields of science, technology, engineering and math, according to a news release.

Universities across North Carolina are establishing partnerships with nearby community colleges to provide students with a smoother path from a two-year college to a four-year degree. The goal is reaching more low- and middle-income students who begin their education at lower-cost community colleges. UNC was a leader in the effort with its program known as C-STEP, or Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program.

The C-STEP program, started in 2006, guarantees qualified students a spot at UNC if they earn an associate’s degree from a partner community college while maintaining a 3.2 or higher grade point average. It is available to students with family incomes at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

UNC’s program is adding new partnerships with the colleges in Greensboro and Charlotte, bringing the total to 13. Other community colleges where students are eligible are Alamance, Cape Fear, Carteret, Central Carolina, Craven, Durham Tech, Fayetteville Tech, Robeson, Sandhills, Southwestern and Wake Tech.

About 44 percent of transfer students at UNC come through the C-STEP program, according to the news release, and they earn degrees at a rate of 85.5 percent. The students receive special advising to help them make the transition to the university.

The new STEM initiative will go beyond the advising services, offering students in science fields internships and lab assistantships, according to the release.

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Jane Stancill has reported on higher ed for The News & Observer for 20 years. She has won state and national awards for her coverage of education.
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