On the first day of classes in August, students returned to campus wearing face coverings and in noticeably different physical spaces due to COVID-19. Though those changes didn’t seem to dampen the excitement for more than 2,932 students new to UNCP.
These new undergraduate and graduate students are among a record 8,262 students enrolled at UNCP this fall in a combination of online, in-person and hybrid instruction.
The total enrollment at UNCP–a 7.3% increase from fall 2019–shatters last year’s record enrollment of 7,698. Since the implementation of the NC Promise Tuition Program at UNCP, the university has seen an impressive 32% increase in overall enrollment.
This growth is astounding considering the university’s enrollment capped at 3,400 just two decades ago.
“In the unprecedented times we’re experiencing, we’re pleased that more students than ever are choosing UNCP. Education will become even more critical in the future as our world continues to change. Our university will remain centered around the success of our students,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“Breaking our enrollment record for the third year in a row is a testament to the high-quality, affordable education offered at UNCP at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our faculty and staff are working hard to keep students engaged and connected to their educational goals as we adjust to new demands in course delivery and budget constraints,” Cummings said.
In addition to NC Promise that lowers the cost of undergraduate tuition at UNCP each semester to just $500 in-state and $2,500 out-of-state, in recent years UNCP has aggressively launched new and strengthened existing programs in high-demand throughout the state and region.
Innovative partnership programs with other universities like N.C. State, Tuskegee, ECU and Methodist in engineering, medicine, veterinary medicine, physical therapy and physician’s assistant offer critical access for students with aspirations in those career fields.
The establishment of a new College of Health Sciences in 2018 and subsequent program growth is meeting the demands for qualified health care professionals in the region while the AACSB-accredited School of Business is producing graduates with the skills needed to succeed in a global marketplace.
Even in the face of an unprecedented pandemic and economic uncertainty, more individuals are opting for continuing their education, specifically graduate degrees–as is the case at UNCP.
UNCP saw increases across several categories, including the number of transfers and online students.
Contributing to overall undergraduate enrollment are the number of transfer students which increased 70% since fall 2017. University officials also pointed to the tremendous growth in The Graduate School which saw an increase from 1,345 students last fall to 1,826. Since fall 2017, the Graduate School has seen a 137% increase in enrollment.
The MBA program, consistently ranked among the best online MBA programs in the country, saw a 60% spike adding 370 new students this fall.
Michael Napierala explored every online MBA program in the state and weighed all options carefully before choosing UNCP.
For Napierala, UNCP checked all the boxes–affordability, value and accessibility. The Pittsboro resident represents a number of students choosing the MBA route.
“I work full time, so the online format was important. As far as time management, cost per credit hour for in-state students and how long it will take to complete the program, UNCP was the better choice,” Napierala said. “I even converted my brother.”
University enrollment officials are thrilled to see record-breaking trends in both new students and retention for the third year in a row, noting the ability for the university to meet each student where they are with the individualized support needed as a key component of success.
“Small classes and personalized attention are a hallmark of the UNCP experience,” said Lois Williams, associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Management. “We know this makes a critical difference in the success of students and are proud more students than ever before are recognizing and choosing to become a Brave. With NC Promise, there isn’t a better value to help students reach their goals.
“We are in the third year of continued overall growth at both the undergraduate and graduate level. This is exciting for us because it shows that the interest in what UNCP offers is resonating on many levels–the community, traditional and non-traditional students.”
Interim Provost Dr. Zoe Locklear agreed, saying university leaders are pleased with the growth they've seen in the graduate programs and, in addition to Business, are experiencing a high demand for programs in Elementary Education, Counseling, Social Work, and Public Administration.
"These programs are particularly designed to meet the needs of students throughout the region and state, with many courses being offered in an online delivery format tailored for the working adult. Our faculty are committed to providing high quality instruction at every level, both undergraduate and graduate," Locklear continued.
Board of Trustees Chairman Pat Corso also attributes the dramatic growth in recent years to the fact UNCP continues to offer quality programs at an affordable price.
“This is exciting news!” Corso said. “It’s a direct correlation between the reputation of the quality of education our students receive along with the NC Promise ($500 per semester for in-state tuition) plan enacted by our state lawmakers. The tuition plan adds great value. The combination of great quality and great value are what’s driving our numbers up.”