WCU, Blue Ridge Community College approve admission agreement

WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown (left) and Blue Ridge Community College President Laura Leatherwood display a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions.

Graduates of Blue Ridge Community College will have an easier time transferring to Western Carolina University after leaders of the two institutions of higher education endorsed a direct-entry admission program Thursday, Oct. 10.

WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown and Blue Ridge President Laura Leatherwood signed a memorandum of understanding establishing the Catamount Blue Ridge Program during a ceremony on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock.

The signing took place just prior to the Henderson County stop on the WCU “Chancellor’s Welcome Tour,” a series of receptions with alumni, friends of the university and community members across North Carolina designed to introduce the university’s new chief executive officer to the region and state.

During her remarks at the tour event at Blue Ridge Community College, Brown reminded the crowd that Henderson County is home to one of the largest populations of WCU alumni in Western North Carolina.

“According to our latest numbers, more than 2,600 alumni live in Henderson County,” Brown said. “Similarly, Henderson County is a significant provider of students for WCU. This fall, 411 students from Henderson County are part of our total record enrollment of 12,167. That means nearly 3.5 percent of our student body hails from Henderson County.”

The new Catamount Blue Ridge Program builds upon the existing North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement that governs the transfer of credits between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina System.

The agreement 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.

“It is important that we ensure that the process of transferring to Western Carolina University is as smooth as possible for the graduates of all our community college partners across the region and the state,” Brown said. “This new memorandum of understanding is a big step that will provide a well-defined roadmap for Blue Ridge Community College graduates who are looking to further their education at Western.”

The agreement also represents the latest step in a history of collaboration between the university and Blue Ridge, which is consistently among the top 10 feeder institutions for students transferring to WCU. This year, WCU has enrolled the largest number of transfer students from Blue Ridge than at any time in the past decade, with 31 students transferring from the college to Western this fall.

“Blue Ridge Community College always has considered Western Carolina University to be a significant partner in providing educational opportunities to the people of Henderson and Transylvania counties,” said Leatherwood. “Anything that we can do to simplify the process for our graduates who are looking to make the transition from one institution of higher education to another will be of great benefit to our students, their educational aspirations and their future successes.”

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.

The Catamount Blue Ridge Program follows similar WCU agreements with Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Southwestern Community College earlier this year. Additional agreements with other community colleges are in the works, said Phil Cauley, WCU assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate enrollment.

To participate in the Catamount Blue Ridge Program, students must meet several conditions, including:

* Be a currently enrolled student at Blue Ridge in a degree-seeking capacity.

* Submit WCU application for admission and records by the university deadline.

* Submit application fee or waiver and fulfill all commitment action steps.

* Be in good standing at Blue Ridge and other institutions attended.

* Demonstrate good citizenship and conduct.

* Earn and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 at Blue Ridge and a minimum GPA of 2.20 in the most recently completed academic term.

* Earn an associate degree from Blue Ridge in a college transfer program or in an applied program for which an articulation agreement exists.

* Enroll at WCU within one academic year (within the next two regular terms or fall/spring semesters) of completion of the associate degree.

Although the Catamount Blue Ridge Program does guarantee admission to WCU for those graduates who meet the requirements, it does not guarantee admission into a specific degree program. Some programs of study at WCU have their own programmatic admission criteria, standards, policies, processes and deadlines.

For more information about how to transfer to WCU, visit the website transfer.wcu.edu. For more information about applying to Blue Ridge Community College, visit www.blueridge.edu/admissions.