This year, more students will celebrate

The back-to-school season never fails to excite as I realize how many first-year students are taking their initial steps down a pathway that will lead them toward a more fulfilling life and career. Or when I think of returning students, ready to delve deeper into their field of study and eager for the challenges of upper level coursework and advanced research.

But, as someone who’s dedicated her life to education, I know that the phrase “back to school” misleads. For most of us, it’s not that we’re returning to something we’ve left, because we’ve been here all along.

For our University’s productive faculty, summer hasn’t been breezy down time. Faculty have been hard at work designing courses, developing new lesson plans, conducting research, and drafting articles, presentations, and books. And now they are re-energized by the prospect of bringing what they’ve discovered to their students.

Faculty have been hard at work designing courses, developing new lesson plans, conducting research, and drafting articles, presentations, and books.

Here at the System Office, the back-to-school season feels even more invigorated than usual, in part because the University has been hard at work implementing initiatives to improve college access and affordability, and the results of our efforts are taking shape.

Thanks to the NC General Assembly’s support for our groundbreaking NC Promise initiative, for example, now more North Carolinians than ever before will be able to afford a high quality, life-changing college education.

At the same time, the staff in our GEAR UP NC office has unveiled a free, cutting-edge smartphone app that hosts virtual reality tours of all 16 of our universities. By making these 360 degree videos widely available—either on the GEAR UP VR app or online—we are making sure that every prospective student can learn more not only about the three NC Promise institutions, but the entire System.

These initiatives give us all the more reason to celebrate: more students, from all 100 counties of the state, will be getting back into the classroom. This alone is evidence of the University’s dedicated effort to build a statewide college-going culture.

But it’s not enough to want to go to college. Prospective students need to be primed to succeed. To this end, the University--collaborating with the state’s public school and community college systems--has also been hard at work making sure that more North Carolinians are ready for higher education by the time they leave the 12th grade.

...we are making sure that every prospective student can learn more not only about the three NC Promise institutions, but the entire System...

Over the summer, education prep faculty at three of our institutions partnered with local school districts to open up three new laboratory schools. As part of the University’s push to fulfill a legislative mandate to improve K-12 student performance, UNC Greensboro and Rockingham Schools have teamed up to run Moss Street Partnership in Reidsville. Appalachian State University has partnered with Forsyth County Schools at Academy at Middle Fork in Winston-Salem. And UNC Wilmington has worked with Hanover County schools to reboot D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy.

In addition, education leaders from across the state have continued their work for the My Future NC commission. Partners from the University, NC’s Department of Public Instruction, NC’s Community College System, independent colleges and universities, and leaders from the business, government, philanthropic, and faith communities continued their diligent work over the summer. Thanks to these efforts, the commission is on course to propose a statewide education attainment goal by the year’s end.

Why is the work we do all year round so important? More high school seniors will be interested and able to enroll in higher education. And more college students will be on track to graduate from the University in a timely manner and with less debt.

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