PITTSBORO - In just one year, students enrolled in Central Carolina Community College's new Accelerated Associate of Arts program can earn a degree, transfer to a university, or begin a professional career.
The ACCELERATE program, which will be launched in Fall 2015 on the Chatham County Campus, greatly compresses the academic year by requiring students to attend fall, spring, and summer classes, with the aid of experienced guidance and advice from CCCC mentors and advisors.
The college is creating this accelerated degree option as a result of the early success of the Central Carolina Works initiative. The ACCELERATE program will give CCW students and others the opportunity to enroll in a vigorous sequence of courses and reach their goals at an accelerated pace.
Mark Hall, Chatham County Provost, said the program is designed for students who are highly motivated and who can excel in a fast paced program.
"With the ACCELERATE program, participating students will be able to save money and time in their pursuit of a baccalaureate degree or professional career by accelerating their first two years at CCCC," said Hall.
A new Comprehensive Articulation Agreement between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina system institutions which has reduced the required hours of a university transfer associate's degree to 60 gave CCCC the flexibility to be more innovative with its course sequencing. In order to finish within a year, students must enroll in a series of eight-week semesters over the course of 12 months. Students who enter ACCELERATE with prior college credit will have an advantage because they will not be required to repeat those courses.
This is the first program of its kind to be offered by CCCC, said Brian Merritt, Vice President for Student Learning. Merritt, who plays a role in the development of the program, said students enrolled in the ACCELERATE program receive a substantial economic advantage.
"Students who enter this rigorous program will only be charged for 16 credit hours during the fall and spring semesters," he said. "This means they will save thousands in tuition, books, and fees, since the degree includes 60 credits."
However, students who qualify must be disciplined and prepared for higher education. The requirements are strenuous. Those who are eligible must have a minimum high school grade-point average (GPA) of 2.6; must be referred by a high school guidance counselor and/or a Central Carolina Works advisor; must have completed four high school math courses and graduated within the past five years or CCCC will evaluate math and English ACT and SAT scores, and must maintain a 2.0 GPA while enrolled in the program.
There are other requirements such as a strong attendance record while participating in the program and monthly meetings with advisors or mentors.
"ACCELERATE will not be for every student," said Merritt. "We developed the program to attract highly-motivated students into a new learning community who can support each other throughout the year with hands-on advising from the faculty program coordinator."
Mike Beck, Dean of Student Learning, worked with other deans and department chairs to help set the course sequence and selection for the program. He said ACCELERATE aligns with the Central Carolina Community College's strategic plan to help students become partners in the learning process.
"The rigor of the program will prepare highly-motivated students to be successful when they transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce," said Beck. "I am excited about CCCC offering this plan to our students, and I know that it will help them reach their academic and personal goals at an accelerated pace."
Many students enter community college, but stop after a year because of financial reasons. The ACCELERATE program will help remove this barrier.
There are other comparable programs in Indiana and New York, and many of them offer scholarships to students entering this type of program. A subsequent goal will be to work toward an endowment with the CCCC Foundation.
Merritt added that he admires the college for its leadership. "Central Carolina is a nationally recognized, world-class leader in the community college system," he said. "Learning opportunities such as ACCELERATE demonstrate that we are courageous and willing to be innovative to meet the needs of students in our service area."
The ACCELERATE program will be offered on the Chatham County Campus in Fall 2015 with the hope that it will eventually be expanded to Harnett and Lee counties. Students can apply online now. For more information, contact Program Coordinator Robert Barnes at 919-545-8075 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Access the Web site at www.cccc.edu/accelerate.