WINSTON-SALEM – Under current trends, out of 100 North Carolina 9th-graders, 72 will graduate from high school in the next four years and say they intend to go to college.

But only 53 will eventually enroll, and after 10 years, only 30 will go on to earn a degree. Twenty-three will leave college with no degree, said Dr. Rebecca Tippett, Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Tippett presented those sobering numbers on leakage from the college pipeline Tuesday at the second meeting of myFutureNC, a commission organized to develop a statewide education plan and set education attainment goals for the state.

The state’s fastest-growing occupations have higher demand for college degrees and certificates than its slowest-growing jobs, Tippett said.

She focused in particular on the 1.2 million North Carolinians who have started college but not finished.  “There’s huge opportunity in terms of engaging those adults and moving them toward completion of a degree,” she said.

The Lumina Foundation has adopted a goal of 60% of U.S. adults ages 25-64 completing a degree or certificate by 2025.  Yet just 47% of North Carolina adults have a degree or certificate, Tippett said – and attainment rates for African-American and Hispanic students are markedly lower.

To meet the 60% goal, North Carolina would need to add 672,000 degrees. If the state is serious about increasing attainment, “We’re not on track to meet that goal unless we depend on in-migration,” Tippett said.

Tippett warned that different strategies will be needed to encourage those in the 25-34 age group than those 35-64, a more diffuse group who are more likely to have children and jobs.

“Our non-traditional students cannot be left out of this conversation,” said Jennifer Haygood, Acting President of the NC Community College System.

AT THE MEETING, a committee on postsecondary education focused on transfers from community colleges to universities.

Lisa Chapman, the Chief Academic Officer for the Community College System, noted that community college graduates who transfer to four-year universities in North Carolina have roughly the same GPA as “native” university students.

Yet Andrew Kelly, a senior Vice President with the UNC System, pointed out that North Carolina ranks third from the bottom in the percentage of community college students who transfer to four-year colleges.

“Our students who do transfer to a university do really well … but we have low transfer-out rates,” he said.

Mark D’Amico, an associate professor of higher education at UNC Charlotte and former admissions counselor, said the transfer process can be daunting – community college graduates are particularly discouraged if they learn not all their credits will transfer.

Community-college students need a clear understanding of which four-year college they intend to attend and the requirements of their intended major, Chapman said.

“If we don’t have realistic conversations with our students, we are setting them up unfairly,” she said.

When UNC System President Margaret Spellings asked how universities can be better “receivers” of transfer students, Chapman replied:  “We need to make the pathway much less convoluted.”

Part of that involves educating parents as early as middle school about the courses required to attend college, she said.

Committee members concluded that academic guidance is crucial – and that currently, too much of the burden is placed on the student.

“We’re asking students to find the right person at the right institution and ask the right questions when they don’t know what the right questions are yet,” said Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts.  “It seems very student-focused.”

State Rep. John Fraley, R-Iredell, drew a similar conclusion.

“Everything seems to be focused on having an 8th- or 9th-grader, maybe a 5th-grader, knowing exactly what they want to do,” Fraley said, adding that he doubted many members of the commission knew what they wanted to be in 8th or 9th grade.

The discussion led Spellings to seize on a remark from committee facilitator David Dodson that “sacred cows make the juiciest burgers.”

“We’ll be challenging some of those sacred cows,” she said.


  1. AMRA says

    I think that state universities need to do more visits to middle and high schools to help students be educated about the college process. I also think that a lot of education needs to be done by community college admission counselors to make sure that the appropriate classes are taken for college transfer requirements. In addition, I think that universities need to do a better job of offering homework assistance sessions like the community colleges do. I think that as a native North Carolinian we need to get parents on board to sit the expectation with kids that they are going to college for at least 4 years. Finally, we are getting all this lottery money like Georgia maybe if we gave scholarships like they do for high school students that maintain a B average we would find we have more college educated people in this state. We have a lot of single parents in this state like myself that really could use that assistance of a scholarship like they have in Georgia.

  2. Tracy Reed says

    I’m a high school counselor and our school has a 99% graduation rate, and 98% of our students go to college, the great majority attending a four year college. The cost of colllege, and lack of support and information regarding majors and career outlook when students get there is what needs to be addressed as much as what students hear in middle and high school. High schools can prepare them to graduate and start them thinking and learning about suitable majors and careers, but colleges need to get them across that finish line.

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