Moore County and its communities understand the value of high quality education and how it directly impacts the local economy and long-term vitality of the area. In addition to quality K-12 schools, Moore County residents are very fortunate to have access to the exceptional post-secondary educational opportunities offered by Sandhills Community College and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Both schools will be offering “Promise” programs to help students save tuition costs.
Sandhills Community College (SCC) in Southern Pines first opened its doors for classes in 1966 and was the first comprehensive community college in North Carolina to offer a college transfer program. Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SCC offers more than 100 Associate degrees, diplomas and certificates that enable students to transfer to 4-year universities to continue their educations or to move directly into the workforce. All of SCC’s programs are ultimately designed to give students the knowledge and skills needed for successful employment.
SCC took unprecedented action last year when it announced “Sandhills Promise”, a scholarship program beginning in the fall of 2017 that provides two years of free tuition for Moore County and Hoke County students enrolling at Sandhills directly following high school graduation. The college will cover any unmet tuition costs after the students apply for financial aid, which essentially means that virtually every student has the opportunity to graduate from SCC without any debt.
On June 22, SCC is hosting a Signing Day Celebration at the Dempsey Student Center for the inaugural Sandhills Promise class. “We already have 160 eligible applicants for the first class that will begin this fall,” said Sandhills Promise Coordinator Jonathan Garrison. “We are inviting students to come to the college with their families to celebrate, receive a Sandhills Promise t-shirt, and sign a letter of intent.”
“Sandhills Promise is our way of promising to the community that we can have an educated workforce, we can have an educated citizenry and we can do for our kids something that most communities are not able to do,” said Dr. John Dempsey, SCC’s President.
SCC works closely with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), located within easy commuting distance just 1 hour south of Southern Pines, to offer expanded educational opportunities to students in Moore County. UNCP offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as stand-alone classes, via distance learning at SCC. Students can pick up where their two-year degree left off to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, business administration, social work or interdisciplinary studies or a master’s in business, education or social work. UNCP is increasingly becoming more popular with local students, enrolling 206 Moore County students in 2015, which was second only to NC State University among the UNC system schools.
UNCP is unique among its fellow UNC institutions such as UNC at Chapel Hill. UNCP’s Native American influence through the Lumbee Tribe has helped place UNCP at the top of U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of diversity among southern regional universities.
And in the fall of 2018, UNCP will offer the “Promise Tuition Plan”, in which in-state students will only have to pay $500 per semester for tuition, a savings of $1,250 each semester.
SCC and UNCP are exploring the possibility of a satellite UNCP campus at Sandhills. The coming years could see a UNCP building on SCC’s main campus, and this building would be dedicated to students pursuing a four-year degree. If that happens, Sandhills would be the first of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges with a university satellite. SCC could directly provide a full complement of educational opportunities while maintaining its distinct identity as a community college.
“As we grow and we change and we evolve here, there is a lot of opportunity to gravitate to UNCP as our university to capture students who really want to live, work and play in this region of North Carolina,” said Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress.