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Central Carolina seeks to boost college completion with new ACCELERATE program

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03.17.2015College & CommunityCollege GeneralCurriculum Programs

PITTSBORO - ACCELERATE is an ambitious new program that will be offered by Central Carolina Community College this fall, which encourages students to attend school full time and graduate early.

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 Pittsboro on the Chatham County Campus, restructures the academic year into eight-week terms, and provides student support with the aid of experienced guidance and advice from CCCC mentors and advisors. ACCELERATE is similar to the ASAP program at the City University of New York (CUNY), which was recently touted by President Obama as a model to lower college costs and boost completion rates.

The college is creating this accelerated degree option as a result of the early success of the Central Carolina Works initiative, which allows high schools students to earn free college credit during their junior and senior years. The ACCELERATE program will give CCW students and others the opportunity to 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 Central Carolina," 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 Central Carolina 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 Central Carolina, 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 and the college should also see a significant financial payoff.

"ACCELERATE students will save thousands in tuition, books, and fees. Additionally, the college's investment in this program will pay off long-term, as we expect the cost per degree for students to decrease."

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.

"We developed the program to attract highly-motivated students," said Merritt. "We want students to be engaged in this new learning community who can support each other throughout the year with hands-on advising from the faculty 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.

Comparable programs in Indiana and New York that regularly receive national exposure offer scholarships to students entering this type of program. Subsequent goals will be to work toward an endowment with the CCCC Foundation.

Merritt added that he admires the college for its innovation. "Central Carolina is a nationally recognized, world-class leader among community colleges," he said. "Learning opportunities such as ACCELERATE demonstrate that we are courageous and willing to be inventive to meet the needs of students in our service area."

Program Coordinator Robert Barnes said he believes the ACCELERATE program offers a great opportunity for dedicated students. "I am really looking forward to helping them succeed," he said. "This is an exciting chance for motivated individuals to get ahead in their college experience, and save a significant amount of money as well. I'm thrilled to be working with this group.

"We still have space for the fall semester, but applications are already being submitted and reviewed. Anyone interested in taking advantage of this once in a lifetime experience should visit the ACCELERATE webpage, or contact me as soon as possible."

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 Access the Web site at