RCC Rolls Out Plan for Free College Tuition at Board of Trustees Meeting
While the cost of college is on the rise at a national level, Richmond Community College continues to put into place strategies that will keep college affordable for the residents of Richmond and Scotland counties.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the RCC Board of Trustees unanimously approved a student investment strategy funded by the RCC-Follett bookstore partnership that will guarantee free college tuition and fees to RCC for two years for all Richmond and Scotland County residents who graduate from high school with two or more RCC dual enrollment courses with a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher and who complete financial aid applications.
“We are calling this initiative the RichmondCC Guarantee because it will guarantee free college tuition and fees for the people of Richmond and Scotland counties,” said Dr. Dale McInnis, president of RCC. “We want to eliminate financial excuses for why someone can’t go to college or their children can’t go to college. This guarantee will encourage more families to have their children take advantage of RCC’s free college classes while in high school and motivate them to keep their grades up.”
McInnis explained that the RichmondCC Guarantee, which will begin fall 2016, would be funded by the commissions from the sales in the Follett campus bookstore. Policy dictates that bookstore funds can only be used in direct support of students.
“Funded by the RCC-Follett partnership, this guarantee will increase dual enrollment participation and college aspiration, motivate high school students to succeed and provide hope and assurance to our families that college is affordable and accessible,” McInnis said.
The RichmondCC Guarantee is one prong of a four-prong student investment strategy using bookstore funds that was approved by the Board of Trustees at Tuesday’s meeting.
Working Scholarship Challenge Match
The Working Scholarship Challenge Match will use up to $30,000 annually from the RCC-Follett partnership to match dollar for dollar money raised by the RCC Foundation for the Working Scholarship. This scholarship program supports students who need financial assistance to go to college but are ineligible for federal financial aid because of their or their family’s earned income.
“This program has become a huge success in a short time. Expending all of the funds raised to date, we have helped 83 students in the past two years through the Working Scholarship,” McInnis said. “By matching money raised by the Foundation, we will be able to double the funds in that program to help more students get the money they need to go to college.”
Campus Jobs for Students
The other two prongs of the strategy include creating a Campus Jobs for Students program and a Student Assistance Fund.
RCC students have access to the federal Work Study program, but financial aid eligibility and regulations often prevents students from taking part in the program. Under the new strategy, students will also be able to apply and interview for part-time temporary jobs on campus.
“This will provide real life experience, teach responsibility and time management, help students pay for their education, and teach them how to balance college and work,” McInnis said.
Student Assistance Fund
The Student Assistance Fund will be a consolidation of two small student aid funds that serve as safety nets for students who may not be able to come to college for temporary, unforeseen reasons.
“The RCC Foundation works very hard to provide money for scholarships, and our Financial Aid Office also works hard to get students federal aid, but we didn’t have all the wheels spinning together in the right direction,” McInnis said. “We came up with this solution that leverages all our existing resources to provide maximum impact for current and prospective students.
“We are really excited to roll out these new programs that will support the college’s continued growth, while greatly reducing financial barriers to a new career and better life for the people of Richmond and Scotland County,” McInnis said.
In Other Business
Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Improvement Sheri Dunn-Ramsay provided the board with the results of a survey of students who had completed degrees, diplomas or certificates at RCC last academic year.
The survey collected data about reasons students chose to attend RCC, goal accomplishments, and overall satisfaction with their experience at RCC.
“Overall, quality of the college received a 97 percent response rate for very satisfied or satisfied,” Dunn-Ramsay said.
Dunn-Ramsay also provided enrollment information for fall semester, reporting that current student enrollment as of Tuesday, Sept. 1, was 2,606. This enrollment figure provides a slight edge over the record of 2,595 set in fall 2013.
“Because of the hard work of our faculty and staff to recruit current and new students, RCC is one of the few community colleges across the state of North Carolina that is not experiencing a decrease in enrollment,” McInnis said.
One area of the college that has seen a huge jump in enrollment is high school dual enrollment. More students than ever are taking advantage of the Early College and Career and College Promise programs.
Vice President for Instruction Kevin Parsons reported that a total of 731 high school students will be taking free college classes at RCC this fall semester. This is a 24 percent increase over the 557 dually enrolled high school students who took RCC college classes last fall.