Wayne Community College is one of 14 community colleges to sign a co-admission agreement with East Carolina University.

The agreement is designed to improve transfer student access and success through a collaborative degree-completion program.

Students will be able to apply to a participating community college and ECU simultaneously and commit to maintaining full-time status. Upon completing an associate degree, they will seamlessly transition into degree-completion programs at ECU, officials said.

"Our most fundamental goal is to make college attendance a far less daunting endeavor for these students who might not think that going to college is within their reach," said Dr. Ron Mitchelson, ECU provost. "In particular, we want these students to understand that the community college, university pathway is very cost effective and to ensure that the transfer from the community college to the university is relatively seamless."

Completing the first two years of a four-year degree at a community college can save a student an estimated $43,000, Mitchelson explained, citing a national report from the Educational Advisory Board.

Other benefits include access to ECU programming as well as joint financial aid counseling and academic advising, scholarship opportunities and a waiver of the ECU transfer application fee.

"Our agreement with ECU provides more than transition between our institutions," said WCC President Dr. Thomas Walker Jr. "Students will apply to ECU at the same time as they do WCC, and they will have access to ECU assets like the libraries and student activities. This will allow our students to ease into university life, both physically and financially. It provides a very attractive option, and we believe many will take advantage of it."

During a signing ceremony and reception at the university, ECU's Chancellor Dr. Cecil Staton thanked the presidents and representatives of the community colleges for their role in furthering the education of North Carolina students. The co-admission program, he said, will be a boon to both ECU and the community colleges in producing the teachers, nurses, engineers, business leaders and health professionals that the region needs to meet its future workforce demands.

The new co-admission program, expected to begin this fall, provides more access to academic programs and support services than the more narrowly focused articulation agreements that exist between individual community colleges and ECU for specific degree programs.

These broader agreements do not supplant those existing bilateral agreements, Michelson said.

"This is precisely the sort of collaboration we need to better serve the people of North Carolina and the east in particular," Staton said.

"We cannot be successful and continue to produce capable and engaged citizens who will go out across the communities of this state and make a difference if we don't have a vital partnership with our community college system.

"We value what you do, we value your students, and we value our partnership."