By RICHARD G. SNEED
Last week, the Tribe worked toward the expansion of educational opportunities for our students and students in western North Carolina. I joined the EBCI education staff in meeting with representatives from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Southwestern Community College to discuss the expansion of the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program to our area. The program is called C-STEP and was started in 2006 with some funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. I traveled to Chapel Hill in October to visit and begin this process.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program to enable more community-college students to transfer to and graduate from Carolina. C-STEP focuses on high school seniors or community college students who come from financially challenged families. These students must be currently enrolled or plan to enroll at a partner community college in a course of study that will lead to the Associate of Arts (AA) or Associates of Sciences (AS) degree. The student must earn the degree with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.2.
Tribal member students who are possible candidates for C-STEP have proven their ability to overcome obstacles, are the first in their family to attend college, diversity, and have family responsibilities. Students who complete the community college portion of the program successfully are guaranteed eventual admission to Carolina.
One of the goals of the program is to insure students are academically prepared and participate in the campus community. The program provides special events, advising and support programs while the student attends community college and continues those support programs when the student attends Carolina. These activities will help our student more easily transition from our close knit tribal community to the larger academic community. The program also utilizes an Advisory Corps which works toward increasing the percentage of students accepted into programs and increase the graduation rates of those who are accepted. These resources are shared between the institutions and help student needs such as choosing a field of study, obtaining letters of reference, standardized test preparations and completing financial aid applications.
The next step in the process involves expansion of the program to include Southwestern Community College. The program is expected to be implemented for the Fall semester 2019.
UNC also discussed with me the opportunity to initiate the Carolina College Advising Corps program. This program helps low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students find their way to colleges that will serve them well. By providing well-trained, enthusiastic advisers who are close in circumstance to the students they serve, the program aims to increase college-going rates at partner high schools across North Carolina.
College advisers are placed in high schools and are immersed in the school setting. Advisers work closely with the schools’ counseling staff and work with students both in one-on-one and group settings. College advisers facilitate campus tours, taking students to visit a variety of institutions. College advisers do not recruit students exclusively to UNC Chapel Hill but help students find their “best fit” institution, wherever that may be.
College advisers participate in an intensive five-week training program on the UNC campus, as well as one week of training at the national level. They are trained to advise students on how to prepare for college admission, choose a college that matches their interests, complete admission and financial aid applications, and locate and apply for appropriate scholarship opportunities. In addition, college advisers provide parents with the information they need to encourage and support their children’s pursuit of a post-secondary education.
Education is a priority for our Tribe and generations of tribal leaders have worked toward that goal. It remains a priority for my administration and this project will benefit our students for years to come.