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UNC program C-STEP helps community college students transition to University

Roy Dawson said he always wanted to be an attorney.

But when he dropped out of high school, his chances didn’t seem too high.

Now, after attending Alamance Community College and transferring to UNC his junior year, he is a student in the UNC School of Law — and he credits his success to C-STEP.

C-STEP — the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program — aids community-college students in the transfer to UNC, and targets low- and moderate-income students.

The program began in 2006 with three original community college partners — Alamance Community College, Durham Technical Community College and Wake Technical Community College — and only six students.

It has since expanded to nine community colleges across North Carolina and more than 300 C-STEP students, with the most recent community college — Sandhills Community College — having been added this semester.

Rebecca Egbert, C-STEP Program Director, said the program serves about 10 to 15 students at each community-college.

Perry Hardison, C-STEP Advisor at Alamance Community College, said Alamance now has 34 C-STEP students between the freshmen and sophomore classes.

“In the early years of the program we did not always have the full 15 (students),” he said. “Now it has expanded so much that Carolina has even let us have a few extra students because in the last couple of slots, the candidates were equally qualified.”

Of the first four classes that graduated through the program, the average GPA was 3.0, and the overall graduation rate for C-STEP students was 80 percent.

The program began with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and is now funded by multiple foundations in North Carolina, such as the Triad Foundation, along with individual donors.

“We are expanding because we have more resources and because there are those students who want to come to Carolina who could use the extra help getting here and getting through,” Egbert said.

Hardison said he believes that the program succeeds in preparing community-college students for life at UNC.

“The students who go through the program have an easier time with the cultural shift from a small community college to a big research institution like Carolina,” he said. “They don’t have struggles that other students have.”

Dawson said he believes the program is important because many community-college students do not normally see UNC as a possibility.

“When you are at a community college, you don’t usually set your sights too high,” he said. “I don’t think the average community college student even thinks that Carolina is a possibility.

“So having advisors there on the look-out for gifted students helps bridge that gap and help to make it to Carolina and succeed.”

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