Jada Jacobs wants to be a pediatric oncologist and one day open a free clinic. Jada has seen firsthand the need for improved health care delivery in her home county of Robeson. The Purnell Swett High School valedictorian, who was selected for the highly competitive Brody School of Medicine Scholars program in partnership with East Carolina University, didn’t look far when it came to choosing where she would start her journey to a successful career in medicine.
Jada, and 2,840 new students in traditional and online graduate and undergraduate programs, are experiencing The University of North Carolina at Pembroke for the first time this semester. These new students, along with a record number of returning students have pushed UNCP enrollment to new heights.
This fall, UNCP welcomed a record 7,698 students, a 7.9 percent growth from fall 2018, according to official reports recently released. This jump comes on the heels of last fall’s enrollment surge to 7,137, an increase of 14 percent over the prior year. In the span of two years, the university has increased total enrollment as well as the academic profile of entering classes.
“UNC Pembroke’s unprecedented growth of more than 23 percent over the last two years is transformative for our university and our region,” said UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “UNC Pembroke was founded to be an institution of access and thanks to NC Promise and other key initiatives, we are proudly fulfilling that original vision today for more students than ever before while also looking to the future.”
The recent growth also has students enthusiastic that UNCP is establishing itself as a leader in education.
“It’s exciting to see more and more people able to experience the unique UNCP practice of up-close and personal education,” said student body president Thomas Crowe-Allbritton. “Access to a quality education has never been more affordable in the state of North Carolina. This means that we are able to expand our reach and grow UNCP into the leader of higher education not just in southeastern North Carolina, but in the entire state.”
Through NC Promise, the state has significantly reduced tuition at UNCP each semester to $500 for in-state and $2,500 for out-of-state students. The result is a significant overall savings for students of approximately $2,600 and $10,000 a year, respectively. As part of a college affordability program enacted by the General Assembly in 2016 to increase access to a four-year degree, NC Promise is available to any undergraduate student accepted to the university.
University leaders attribute the new peak in enrollment to not only NC Promise, but also to new, innovative academic programs and enhanced retention and student support services.
“Not only are we attracting more students, I am proud to say that we are retaining them at record levels,” said UNCP Provost Dr. David Ward. “Our investment in high-quality faculty and dedicated student support services is really paying off. The students enrolled today are more likely to stay with UNCP and ultimately graduate.”
A focus on individual student success has long been a hallmark of a UNCP education and with growth, the university is honing in on its ability to impact student progression, retention and graduation.
“Many of our students are looking for a more supportive environment to ensure they successfully earn a degree,” remarked Cummings. “We are proud of our ability to provide this type of environment, keeping class sizes small and taking pride in meeting each student where they are, with the support they need.”
New academic areas of study include in-demand programs such as the addition of cybersecurity to a growing computer science program, an expanding emphasis in agri-science, collaborations such as a 3-plus-2 engineering pathway with NC State, and the establishment of a College of Health Sciences to address workforce needs in the region over the next decade.
The commitment of state and local leaders to the university is evidenced by recent investments in the campus. As an economic engine for southeastern North Carolina, UNC Pembroke’s growth is having a significant, positive effect on the region.
“As both an alumna and county manager, I am encouraged to see such dramatic enrollment growth at my alma mater,” said UNC System Board of Governors member Kellie Blue. “Our state is a leader in public higher education, and as a vital part of the System, UNCP has a real impact on our region’s economy by encouraging growth today and a more educated workforce tomorrow.”
To meet regional needs, the university has recently experienced a boom in campus infrastructure improvements thanks to an increased investment by both the state and the school’s community partners.
Construction is set to begin on a $37.5 million state-of-the-art School of Business building to educate business leaders. And, the $13.5 million renovation of West Hall will centralize and modernize campus technology and the growing online education resources.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was recently held for the expansion of the university’s Courtyard Apartments providing housing for an additional 192 students, and increasing on-campus housing capacity to 2,331 beds.
The university is also seeing improvements to the major entrance to campus with a $5 million NC Department of Transportation’s Prospect Road project. Scheduled for completion in November 2019, the project features new medians, roundabouts, crosswalks and sidewalks that will improve safety for the increasing number of students, faculty and staff.
Cummings adds, “The support of our state’s leaders and that of key partners is making a difference while UNCP assumes a critical role as a key economic and education engine, driving much-needed change in southeastern North Carolina and beyond. We are thankful many friends share our vision for the future.”