Southeastern North Carolina is often defined by its urgent needs. The need to address deep disparities in health care and education; to encourage more business growth and entrepreneurship; to rebuild from floods and adjust civic life after the destabilizing loss of so many manufacturing jobs.
But through the eyes of UNCP and its faculty, administrators, and graduates, the region is better defined by its opportunities. A new business school is training the next generation of leaders and innovators; excellent health care programs are graduating nurses, social workers, and counselors to serve the people of North Carolina; and a profound commitment to community service is helping the area recover from Hurricane Matthew.
What’s more, thanks to a remarkable $51 million investment by state lawmakers, tuition at UNC Pembroke will drop to $500 per semester this fall — making a high quality college education available for more students than ever.
This competitive tuition means a lot for the students and families whose paychecks and savings accounts haven’t kept up with the spiraling costs of college. But it may mean even more for the tens of thousands of North Carolinians who may never attend UNC Pembroke, but who benefit immensely from its profound impact on the region’s economy and livelihood.
It also will enable the university to build and invest for the brighter future of this entire region. At a time when national college enrollments are flat or declining, UNC Pembroke is attracting a wave of new talent and energy. Completed applications are up by double-digit percentages for the coming year, a reflection of the remarkable value the university offers to this community and the entire state.
UNC Pembroke’s growth is a strategic investment in a proud and storied part of the state during a moment when North Carolina’s economic growth is overwhelmingly concentrated in just a handful of urban counties. There’s never been a time when building homegrown talent and attracting new investment in smaller towns and rural counties is as critical as it is now.
Earlier this month, the UNC System hosted a State of the University Tour stop in Pembroke that took a look at the path ahead for the university and for all of the state’s 17 public higher education institutions.
In UNC Pembroke, it’s clear there’s a model and story of how a community can grow and nurture a small teacher’s college into a regional powerhouse, welcoming an incredibly diverse student body and preparing them to be the inventors, case workers, writers, scientists, and educators that our state needs.
As a system, the core priorities that guide our work are on display at UNC Pembroke: a focus on providing economic mobility and opportunity to all North Carolinians; the importance of accountability and transparency in enabling higher expectations of our work; and the critical role public higher education plays in advancing the public good through debate, discourse and leadership.
As part of the UNC System’s strategic plan, UNC Pembroke has committed to bold goals to strengthen the role it plays in this region. Over the next four years, we’ll raise graduation rates by 6 percentage points, moving nearly 20 percent more rural students and more than 30 percent more low-income students across the finish line with a degree in hand. We’ll also produce nearly 30 percent more trained graduates in critical workforce areas like health care, STEM and teaching, all while reducing achievement gaps and growing enrollments.
All of that is made possible by the strong partnership between the university and the taxpayers of this state and the region. Thanks to state lawmakers who have made the bold promise that cost will not be an impediment to our students and families, UNC Pembroke has the opportunity to become an even more important force for good across Southeastern North Carolina.
It’s an opportunity we won’t miss.
This was co-written by Dr. Robin Gary Cummings, chancellor of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Margaret Spellings, president of the UNC System.