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N.C. Mulls Requiring Community College Degree to Nab Spot in Four-Year Institutions

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North Carolina is considering a major change to its higher education admittance system. Students who are accepted to public colleges and universities, but deemed the least well prepared, would be required to attend community college first.

According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, North Carolina's university system is  examining the idea, and is expected to produce a report on how it would work by March 1. 

The idea came from the state's Republican lawmakers, who inserted language outlining the program in the state budget. The legislature has been increasingly critical of North Carolina's higher education system, according to the Chronicle.

Students who are admitted at four-year colleges and universities in North Carolina but then identified as the least well prepared would have to attend two-year institutions, but once they complete associate degrees within three years, they would be guaranteed enrollment at the four-year institutions.

The North Carolina Guaranteed Admission Program, or NCGAP, would begin with the cohort of students entering college in the fall of 2017.

Not many details of the program have been spelled out yet, including exactly what kind of academic profile would result in deferred acceptance to a four-year institution. The bill says only that NCGAP would apply to a student who "satisfies the admission criteria of a constituent institution, but whose academic credentials are not as competitive as other students admitted to the institution." 

The idea behind the program, according to the Chronicle, is to increase the university system's six-year graduation rate of 67.5 percent, and decrease student debt. But some faculty leaders are saying the plan would be logistically tough, crowd resource-poor community colleges with too many weak students, and possibly drive some students to colleges out of state.

Writing in defense of the proposal last summer, Jenna A. Robinson, the president of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said that for too long, students still in need of "the three R's" have been admitted, "blurr[ing] the line between basic and higher education." Requiring the least-prepared students to obtain associate degrees "shifting it back to lower levels of education where it belongs," she wrote.

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