Leaders of Western Carolina University and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College met Monday, July 8, to sign a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions of higher education. The agreement guarantees admission to WCU for all A-B Tech graduates who satisfy specific requirements spelled out in the document.
WCU Chancellor Kelli Brown, who officially took office a week prior to the signing ceremony, and A-B Tech President Dennis King signed the document establishing the Catamount Trailblazer Program.
The direct-entry admission program, which derives its name from the mascots for both institutions, builds upon the existing N.C. Comprehensive Articulation Agreement governing the transfer of credits between the N.C. Community College System and the University of North Carolina System.
The agreement between WCU and A-B Tech follows a gathering earlier this year of six community college leaders at WCU to discuss ways that two- and four-year institutions can work better together to provide a more seamless transition for students seeking additional higher education opportunities.
Southwestern Community College has a similar partnership with WCU.
“We currently have 17 transfer agreements with WCU, more than we share with any other institution,” said SCC spokesman Tyler Goode. “Approximately 75 percent of our college transfer graduates enroll at Western, and we are constantly working with WCU leaders to find more ways we can work together to benefit our students, graduates and the community.”
The agreement also represents the latest step in a history of collaboration between the university and A-B Tech, which was the top feeder institution for students transferring to WCU for the fall 2018 semester. Of the 818 students who transferred to WCU from community colleges last fall, 130 of them – or 15.9 percent – came from A-B Tech.
“Western Carolina University has long been an important partner of A-B Tech, since many of our graduates have continued their education at WCU,” King said. “With this agreement, the two institutions provide an even clearer pathway for our graduates to benefit from the guaranteed high-quality education available just down the road at Western Carolina University.”
The onset of the NC Promise tuition plan, which reduces the cost of in-state tuition to $500 per semester at WCU and two other UNC System institutions, has resulted in a significant increase in the number of students transferring to WCU from community colleges and other four-year schools. WCU saw its total number of new transfer students increase by more than 40 percent last fall – from 786 in 2017 to 1,105 in 2018. That includes students transferring from all types of institutions, including community colleges and four-year schools, with A-B Tech students accounting for nearly 12 percent of the total transfer population last year.