PEMBROKE, N.C. – Students returning to campus this fall note a distinctly new “feel” on campus. That “feel” is because UNC Pembroke has shattered its enrollment record with 7,137 students, a 14 percent increase compared with fall 2017—a surge of some 885 additional students.
The previous record enrollment was 6,944 in fall 2010.
The first semester as an NC Promise campus also began with a record number of transfer, graduate and continuing students adding to the total growth of the university. Of the total enrollment, 2,867 are new to campus. UNC Pembroke also saw spikes in continuing students indicated by a more than 5 percent increase in retention rate—the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen returning for their second year.
With campus growth initiatives, new academic programming, a focus on delivering a highly personalized education and the financial impact of NC Promise, UNCP has not only grown its enrollment and improved the retention rate, but also strengthened the academic profile of the incoming class.
Average freshman SAT scores are up nearly 100 points compared with last year while both ACT scores and GPA have also risen.
University leaders credit the enrollment surge to the North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan, or NC Promise, which was part of the state legislature’s college affordability program passed in 2016. The North Carolina General Assembly provided the $51 million to make the plan possible.
The plan reduces undergraduate tuition each semester to $500 for in-state and $2,500 for out-of-state students, resulting in significant overall savings of approximately $2,600 and $10,000 a year, respectively.
“It is clear that NC Promise has made a high-quality college education more accessible to North Carolina students,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “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 the region.
“We are grateful to the leadership in our state for making this significant investment in the future of our students and in our university’s potential to drive our region forward.”
Don Metzger, chair of UNCP’s Board of Trustees, also praised the legislators for their visionary plan and said he is excited to see what the future holds for UNCP as NC Promise capitalizes on the university’s mission of access.
“State legislators made this all possible and it is already producing positive results. We are so pleased to be part of NC Promise. It will certainly do a lot 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.”
UNCP welcomed a freshman class of 1,233 and 838 new transfer students—a staggering 56 percent more than fall 2017. Another 256 students re-enrolled at the university, marking a 59 percent jump in readmissions over fall 2017.
Consistent with overall increase in academic standing, the highly-selective Esther G. Maynor Honors College at UNCP also broke records this fall. For the sixth straight year in a row, the college has exceeded prior year enrollment. Total enrollment grew this fall by 33 percent aided by a 10 percent increase in new freshmen.
“NC Promise is an ambitious and bold answer to the legitimate concerns about college costs and student debt,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings. “Here in the state that invented public higher education, our lawmakers have helped put an affordable degree within reach of every North Carolinian.
“NC Promise builds on our state’s long-standing commitment to keeping its public education system affordable for all North Carolinians,” added President Spellings. “All NC Promise institutions are uniquely tied to historically underserved regions and have long been pillars of their community.”
While enrollment numbers grow, UNCP remains committed to maintaining a broadly diverse student body offering opportunities to interact with peers from various geographies and backgrounds. This fall, UNCP saw increases in out-of-state students while international student enrollment swelled, breaking records in both areas. Additionally, the number of new American Indian and Hispanic students rose compared with the previous year.
UNC Pembroke’s continued growth, evidenced by a new College of Health Sciences, University College and innovative academic Pathways to Success programs, has been accelerated by NC Promise as the Historically Minority Serving Institution deepens its long roots in a region with some of the most shocking health and economic outcomes in the state.
Kellie Blue, UNC Board of Governors member and former UNCP Board of Trustees chair, said education is the most powerful investment in our future for students and the region.
“With the NC Promise Tuition Plan, the state is making an investment in the economy that will continue to pay dividends for generations to come,” she said. “Economic development is fairly straightforward. If you invest in education, incomes will develop.”
For the past year, Provost David Ward has led a university-wide NC Promise Task Force with the purpose of preparing for the expected growth, identifying potential challenges and devising solutions to issues such as additional faculty, housing, dining and parking.
Ward said the task force will reconvene in the coming weeks to begin assessing needs for the fall of 2019 and beyond.
“We are committed to making sure that as we grow, our students continue to receive a high-quality, student-focused education.”
From strong academic departments to championship athletics, service-learning, the arts, and a vibrant campus life, new and returning students at UNCP this fall recognize the new “feeling” in the air.
“It is just different this semester,” said Jon Tipton, a senior Mass Communication major from Chapel Hill.
“It is great to see all these new faces,” he said. “NC Promise is attracting more people to come to UNCP at an affordable price. We will definitely see more people at athletic events and we will see more involvement in Greek Life and other events.
“The energy on campus and in the classroom makes you feel like you are part of something truly special.”