Some students applying to UNC system schools next year may not get an outright acceptance or rejection letter. Instead, the university may say, “We’ll take you, but go to community college first.”
More than a third of UNC system students start college but never finish, or take longer than six years to graduate. Many of these students are those whose grades and scores are just good enough to merit acceptance. Maybe they’re not prepared or life just gets in the way.
“By and large, they have a terrible track record for completion,” says state representative Craig Horn of Union County, chairman of the House Education Appropriations Committee.
Horn wants these students to have a better chance of finishing with a four-year degree. He and other lawmakers believe getting a start in community college is the way to do this. They wrote it into this year’s budget bill.
“They would get the more personalized education support that one gets at a community college. For those students who are maybe not socially ready for a university setting, it would help them make that adjustment,” says Horn.
The university would promise those students who receive an associate degree within three years a slot to finish up their bachelor’s. As for those who don’t, Horn says, they wouldn’t pay as much for their education, saving themselves and taxpayers money. And hopefully, he says, they’d still end up with a certificate or associate degree.
Over the past couple of years, students have had an easier time transferring between the community college and UNC systems. The two systems are now looking at ways to make this program work.
The law stipulates universities require these lower-scoring students go the community college route.
“I don’t want to see a mandatory system. I want it to be an option, but I want it to be a very strong option and a viable option,” says David Powers, chairman of the Board of Governor’s Public Affairs Committee.
Powers doesn’t imagine that many UNC system students would go to community college first. But Representative Horn would like to see about 15 percent of potential UNC system freshman do that. If that’s the case, universities could take a hit to their budgets, since they’re based on enrollment.
The UNC and community college systems are scheduled to present their plan to lawmakers by March 1. Students applying for the 2017-18 school year may be the first to get a conditional letter of acceptance.
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