PEMBROKE — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has seen a 14 percent increase in student enrollment this fall compared with fall 2017, and the NC Promise initiative is being given credit.
Fall enrollment jumped to 7,137 from 6,252 this past year, an increase of 885 students, according to information provided by campus officials, and the most in school history. The previous record enrollment at the school was in the fall of 2010 when 6,944 students enrolled.
Andy Mendez, 20, a junior at UNCP, said he has seen the results of the NC Promise firsthand.
“There are a lot more freshmen here because of the NC Promise,” he said. “Many were going to community college, but when they found about it (NC Promise) they came here.”
The initiative lowered tuition for semester for in-state students to $500 and to $2,500 for out-of-state students. It also promises not to raise the tuition while the students are at UNCP. That is a reduction of about $2,600 a year for in-state students, and $10,000 a year for out of state.
The fall enrollment includes 2,867 new students, according to UNCP officials. The campus also has seen a spike in continuing students and a 5 percent retention rate increase.
“It’s clear that NC Promise has made a high-quality college education more accessible to North Carolina students,” Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said. “Over the long term, this will lead to a more highly educated workforce, a more engaged citizenry and improved economic growth for the state and region.”
The North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan, or NC Promise, was enacted by the state General Assembly in 2016 as a college affordability program to help students attend four-year colleges in the state and took effect this fall. Those campuses are UNCP, Western Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University. Winston-Salem State and Fayetteville State, which were offered the initiative, opted out, with officials worried about the reduction in funding.
Cummings made frequent trips to meet with legislators and was assured that the state would make up for any loss in revenue associated with the tuition cut.
“We are so pleased to be part of NC Promise,” he said. “It will certainly do a lot to help us grow and offer more programs to prepare students for in-demand careers, as we expand our programs with the new College of Health Sciences and new School of Business building.”
Western Carolina University also has seen an enrollment increase.
Reaction to NC Promise has been positive, Phil Cauley, WCU assistant vice chancellor, said in a statement.
“Preliminary numbers indicate that NC Promise has proven to be an accelerant to the growth trajectory that WCU has been experiencing since 2011. Comparative figures point to a record entering first-year class (from an academic and headcount standpoint), a significant spike in transfer student enrollment, and record total enrollment,” Cauley wrote in his statement. “But enrollment increases cannot be attributed exclusively to NC Promise. For example, enrollment totals are up for new graduate students, a population that is not affected by NC Promise.”
Students at UNCP feel good about NC Promise because it has made a college education more attainable and taken the high-cost factor out of it.
Jacob Hunt, 19, and his college classmate, 19-year-old Jocelyn Bullard, said when they were close to graduating from high school, a lot of students in their class ruled out going to college because they believed it was too expensive.
“They were scared they couldn’t afford it and didn’t want to get in debt,” he said.
The thought of going to college was an unrealistic goal for some of her high school classmates, Bullard said.
“I think it comes from the lack of opportunity,” she said. “Robeson County is poverty stricken.”
Both say the reduction in tuition at UNCP is a benefit, but believe there’s room for more, especially since they don’t live on campus.
“They’re making it cheaper, but they are still raising student fees and the parking rates went up,” he said.
When Yvonne Cabrera, 19, of Clinton, heard about NC Promise, she knew it was the next step toward achieving her goal of becoming a nurse. She heard about the reduced tuition program after getting her associate’s degree.
“Because it’s cheaper and better, I decided to come here to finish my major,” she said.
It’s not hard to see how the enrollment increase has changed the UNCP campus, she said.
“Because around lunch time we are really packed,” she said.
Reach David Pollard by calling 708-257-8380 or via email at [email protected]