UNCC wants to strengthen ties with county
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has deep connections with Union County and it is looking to strengthen them.
Chancellor Philip Dubois spent time in the county last week meeting with leaders and talking about the university and how it could be an asset to the county.
“The university could be a great asset to the region and the county,” Dubois said. He added that he was trying to make that clear.
They have visited numerous counties, mostly staying within the regional partnership, he said.
Union County already has a large presence at UNCC, with 1,445 undergraduate students attending, 4,700 alumni living in the county, four Levine Scholars, a few inaugural football players and other ties.
While the university does not have the capital to expand physically into the county through a campus, Dubois said, they are starting to think about how to reach into other areas and are expanding their online class offerings.
Often, people find themselves discussing the value of a four-year degree and burden
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of student loan debt.
Dubois said they are seeing a large number of students using a federal Pell Grant to fund college. He added that 74 percent of students are on some form of financial aid.
However, for in-state undergraduate students, the average amount of debt is about $20,000, Dubois said.
According to American Student Assistance, the average debt for a student in the class of 2011 was $26,600, a 5 percent increase from the class of 2010.
Dubois estimated about $66 million of unmet need. He said financial aid from all levels of government is decreasing or tightening their standards.
The university system is trying to keep tuition raises as low as they can, Dubois said. The staff at UNCC has not had a salary increase in five years. Traditionally the university tried to put 25 percent of tuition revenue back into financial aid. However, next year they are experimenting with creating more campus jobs for students to help them financially and keep them on campus to socialize and attend classes.
It is also working to grow scholarships. Dubois said there are 15 Levine Scholarships, which is a full-ride. Apart from that, there are 11 full-ride scholarships for the rest of the campus.
“We are not richly endowed from a private scholarship (fund),” Dubois said.
However, he noted, there are numerous benefits to obtaining a college degree. There is a lot of public good in a higher-educated population, he said. The unemployment numbers tend to trend lower when people have a degree and average salaries tend to trend higher. In addition, people with degrees are more likely to volunteer or participate in philanthropic endeavors.
It is working with Central Piedmont Community College through a passport program to help students prepare for college. The university is also reaching out to people who are in good academic standing, but did not finish their degree, to come back and complete their courses. So far they have had more than 500 adults complete what they call the “49er finish.”
For Union County, the university can contribute beyond college educations for students. Researchers are working with Union County-based companies on equipment and other aspects of industry. Many local businesses employ scientists and researchers with degrees from UNCC.
Dubois noted how the college has grown from a two-year school in the beginning to a four-year school with more than 20,000 students and a growing graduate and Ph D. program.
Dubois hopes the school can build on its academic programs, though he noted that takes time. He is looking to the future and seeing more growth and innovation for the school and the surrounding counties. Dubois hopes there can someday be a medical school or a law school, though he noted those all take time.
As the college looks to grow its presence, perhaps more partnerships will be forged in the county.