New NC university program changes focus from deferring admission to improving graduation rates

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The General Assembly along with UNC school system leaders have made big changes to a controversial new program for North Carolina universities.

Last year, 9 On Your Side reported the NC Guaranteed Admission Program, or NC GAP, was originally designed to defer some students considered at academic risk to community college before going to a 4-year university. It stirred up lots of controversy, as people were concerned it would hurt minority and low-income students. That concern prompted big changes, decided on back in December.

The goal of NC GAP is to improve the number of students graduating in 4 years, yet they’ve come up with another way to do it. Instead of sending students considered at academic risk to community college, each university now has to make a game plan for improvement.

ECU is focusing on three groups: first-time full-time freshmen, Pell Grant recipients, and first generation students. They’ll focus on selecting courses, completing necessary hours each semester, counseling, campus involvement, and understanding credit and debt.

“We really want to reestablish the culture at ECU that students should complete in 4 years. We label ourselves as a 4-year school and we should be one,” said ECU Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Ron Mitchelson.

As part of these efforts, ECU launched a program Wednesday called Finish in Four. A task force will meet every two weeks to evaluate barriers to students graduating in 4 years and work to eliminate them.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing nothing that would inhibit or keep students from finishing in 4. An additional 5th year would be a 25% increase in the cost of that education and that’s not good for anybody,” Dr. Mitchelson said.

ECU’s goal over the next 5 years is to move from a 37% 4-year graduation rate to 46%.

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