A new co-admission agreement between the Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and Appalachian State University was created this month to aid students in a seamless transition from the community college to the university to complete a four-year degree.

The Aspire Appalachian Co-Admission Program will provide students who complete a two-year associate degree at CCC&TI with a 2.25 GPA or higher with guaranteed admission to Appalachian State to finish their undergraduate degrees.

The agreement, which goes into effect immediately, will create a pathway from CCC&TI to Appalachian State that includes academic and financial aid advising support for students, which is designed to prepare them for a successful transition from community college to the university.

Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts and CCC&TI President Mark Poarch attended a signing ceremony on Appalachian’s campus on Dec. 12. Poarch described the agreement as “monumental.”

Poarch said there wasn’t a state mandate requiring the partnership, but rather that the program is the outcome of a six-month conversation between the two institutions. Poarch said both his and Everts’ leadership teams were together for an event in Lenoir during the summer, where conversations sparked about additional ways the two institutions could partner.

Poarch explained that a North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement is already in place between the state university and community college systems. The statewide agreement assists community college students while they transfer to a university system, Poarch said. The partnership was a hybrid modeled after similar programs at institutions such as University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina State University.

This agreement “goes beyond” this idea to assist CCC&TI students in transferring to ASU, Poarch said. He added that CCC&TI saw the Aspire Appalachian program as a recruiting tool for high school students who need a little more confidence before attending a four-year school.

“Students often come to us and doubt their ability or lack the confidence to go on and get a four-year degree,” Poarch said. “This agreement removes that doubt ... this partnership is a way to encourage them to go on and complete their four-year degree.”

While students are guaranteed admission, they are not guaranteed admission into a particular major, as some high demand programs may have admission requirements beyond those for general admission to Appalachian, according to the memorandum of understanding between the two institutions.

Aspire Appalachian students will have up to three years to complete the Associate of Arts, Associate of Science or Associate in Applied Science degrees at CCC&TI before enrolling at Appalachian State. Aspire students will also benefit from waived ASU application fees (which Poarch said are around $65), coordinated financial aid programs, coordinated degree completion and on-site admissions and academic advising.

Students in the program will also have priority enrollment in the transfer pre-orientation program — which provides enhanced orientation programming and early registration, according to the MOU.

This program allows CCC&TI students to attend the college to complete two years of a four-year degree at a lesser cost while not having to worry about admission into a four-year school, Poarch said. While $65 may not seem like much to some, Poarch said that fee can sometimes be a financial barrier for a student who may then not choose to apply to ASU.

Poarch said each institution is supposed to identify a liaison for students where they can obtain more information about the program.

“I want to thank Chancellor Everts, Provost Kruger and the entire leadership team at Appalachian State University for your vision, for your leadership and for your partnership,” Poarch said in a statement. “This is a monumental day for Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. It’s great to be able to demonstrate the collaboration and strength we have in Western North Carolina.”

This past fall, 1,278 transfer students enrolled at Appalachian — seven out of 10 came from a community college.

Describing Aspire Appalachian as an important collaboration, Everts said the agreement represents a continuation and strengthening of the partnership between the two institutions.

“Our strong transfer student numbers are due in large part to the intentional work we do with community colleges,” Everts said in a statement. “Appalachian is nationally recognized for the support we provide our transfer students, which leads to their academic success. The completion rate for Appalachian’s graduating students who transferred after graduating from N.C. Community Colleges is more than 20 percent above the national average.”

As co-chair of the Higher Education Task Force for My Future NC, a statewide commission on educational attainment, Everts said she is working with education professionals across the state to address issues of increasing access to education — and decreasing achievement gaps.

“As part of this work,” she said, “the commission is addressing transfer pathways from community colleges to four-year institutions. I am extremely proud to see this strategy put into action through this agreement between CCC&TI and Appalachian.”

Poarch said he and Everts are still in conversation about additional ways the two institutions could strengthen their partnership. He said this program has “laid the ground work” for additional programs in the future.

Students seeking additional information or who want to apply for the Aspire Appalachian Co-Admission Program can contact Dennis Seagle — CCC&TI director of enrollment management — at (828) 726-2705; Kim Van Wie — director of Student Services at the CCC&TI Watauga Campus in Boone — at (828) 297-2185, or Jane Rex — director of Appalachian State’s Office of Transfer Services — at (828) 262-7465.

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