North Carolinaâ€™s community colleges and the University of North Carolina system must read off the same page on transfer credits. Too much is at stake for thousands of community college students. If the UNC campuses assume veto power over community college credit, as has been suggested by a recent report, the role of the community college in North Carolina is in jeopardy.
This is an issue important to Lincoln County as Gaston College readies a program that will make it possible for students to earn associateâ€™s degrees at the schoolâ€™s Lincoln Campus.
According to an Associated Press story published this week, nearly 800,000 people are enrolled at the stateâ€™s 59 community colleges, with most of them involved in continuing education or job retraining. More and more, students are completing associateâ€™s degrees in the hope of transferring to one of the 16 UNC campuses.
But an outside consultant studying the system now questions just how closely the two systems are willing to work together. The consultant recommends that the UNC system guarantee admission for every community college student who completes an associate general education degree. They would enter UNC campuses as juniors.
UNC officials say they currently help associate degree holders who want a higher degree, but they donâ€™t want to be forced to make an admission.
Community college leaders say such admissions should be automatic, or else the concept of a two-year degree has no meaning to those who seek a full, four-year college degree.
There should be no question about transfer credits. In 1995 the Legislature ordered UNC and the community colleges to make plain what community college credits would transfer to UNC system campuses. If those agreements are not honored the Legislature may have to step in again and make sure there is complete agreement on both sides.
The number of community college graduates transferring to UNC campuses reportedly grew by 27 percent over four years, to more than 6,800 students in 2003. The number of students at the Lincoln Campus of Gaston College has increased more than four-fold during the past five years. This trend is likely to continue as the North Carolina workforce, diverted from many of the mainstay manufacturing jobs of the past, trains for the workplace of the future. Many of these workers begin their preparation at their hometown community college, some taking night classes while working jobs during the day. We cannot let them down.