WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown, who officially took office a week prior to the signing ceremony, and A-B Tech President Dennis King affixed their signatures to the document establishing the Catamount Trailblazer Program.
The direct-entry admission program, which derives its name from the mascots for both institutions, builds upon the existing North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement governing the transfer of credits between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina System.
The memorandum of understanding follows a gathering earlier this year of six community college leaders at WCU to discuss ways that two- and four-year institutions can work better together to provide a more seamless transition for students seeking additional higher education opportunities.
“We want to make the process of transferring to Western Carolina University as smooth as possible for students who graduate from all of our community college partners across the region and the state,” Brown said. “This new memorandum of understanding with A-B Tech is an important step in providing a clear roadmap to help guide those Trailblazers who are looking to further their education as Catamounts.”
The agreement also represents the latest step in a history of collaboration between the university and A-B Tech, which was the top feeder institution for students transferring to WCU for the fall 2018 semester. Of the 818 students who transferred to WCU from community colleges last fall, 130 of them — or 15.9 percent — came from A-B Tech.
“Western Carolina University has long been an important partner of A-B Tech, since many of our graduates have continued their education at WCU,” King said. “We are happy to enter a new phase of this beneficial partnership with the Catamount Trailblazer guaranteed admission agreement. With this agreement, the two institutions provide an even clearer pathway for our graduates to benefit from the guaranteed high-quality education available just down the road at Western Carolina University.”
The onset of the NC Promise tuition plan, which reduces the cost of in-state tuition to $500 per semester at WCU and two other UNC System institutions, has resulted in a significant increase in the number of students transferring to WCU from community colleges and other four-year schools. WCU saw its total number of new transfer students increase by more than 40 percent last fall — from 786 in 2017 to 1,105 in 2018. That includes students transferring from all types of institutions, including community colleges and four-year schools, with A-B Tech students accounting for nearly 12 percent of the total transfer population last year.
To participate in the Catamount Trailblazer Program, students must meet several conditions, including:
• Be a currently enrolled student at A-B Tech in a degree-seeking capacity.
• Submit WCU application for admission and records by the university deadline.
• Submit application fee or waiver and fulfil all commitment action steps.
• Be in good standing at A-B Tech and other institutions attended.
• Demonstrate good citizenship and conduct.
• Earn and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 at A-B Tech and a minimum GPA of 2.20 in the most recently completed academic term.
• Earn an associate’s degree from A-B Tech in a college transfer program or in an applied program for which an articulation agreement exists.
• Enroll at WCU within one academic year (within the next two regular terms or fall/spring semesters) of completion of the associate’s degree.
Although the Catamount Trailblazer Program does guarantee admission to WCU for those A-B tech graduates who meet the requirements, it does not guarantee admission into a specific degree program. Some programs of study at WCU have their own programmatic admission criteria, standards, policies, processes and deadlines.