BCCC has strong start to the school year

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023

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Beaufort County Community College is having a strong start to the school year, according to Dr. David Loope, president of Beaufort County Community College. 

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college has continued to succeed. “I think we have come out of COVID very successfully,” Loope said, adding that the college is in a “better place” than it’s ever been in terms of enrollment and being able to meet academic needs of Eastern North Carolina residents. 

The student population grew by 517 students or 8% during the 2022-2023 academic year and includes Summer of 2022 for a total of 6,800 students. This is compared to the number of students who attended Beaufort County Community College during the 2021-2022 school year. 

Loope shared the increase in enrollment can be tied to Beaufort Promise. Beaufort Promise began in 2021 as a last-dollar program to cover tuition and fees for college credit courses and initial certification classes. Students work with the college’s financial aid office to exhaust all other scholarships and grants they can apply for before Beaufort Promise can be tacked on. Using funds from North Carolina Longleaf Commitment, the American Rescue Plan, the Career and College Promise, Pell Grants, NC Works, State Employees Credit Union, the Golden LEAF Foundation and the BCCC Foundation, the Beaufort Promise paid for remaining balances on students’ tuition. It is not a loan; therefore, students were not required to pay it back. This means, combined with all scholarships and grants students received, Beaufort Promise helped students attend Beaufort County Community College for free. 

“Beaufort Promise enabled people to go back to school at a particularly difficult time economically for a lot of folks,” Loope said. 

Loope added that Beaufort Promise helped the college “recover rapidly” from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The college recently announced it would continue Beaufort Promise for the next three academic years through 2025-2026 covering tuition and fees for all students in the college’s service region – Beaufort, Hyde, Tyrell and Washington counties. These students must enroll in at least nine credit hours and maintain a 2.0 GPA or 50+ non-credit contact hours. Beaufort Promise will continue to be a “last dollar” scholarship. 

Because federal American Rescue Plan money can no longer be used for Beaufort Promise, the college is relying on Beaufort County Government to supply $250,000 annually for a total of five years to pay for Beaufort County residents’ tuition through Beaufort Promise. The county and college are in year two of that agreement. Money from Beaufort County Community College’s Foundation helps residents in Hyde, Tyrell and Washington counties pay for tuition through Beaufort Promise. 

Loope shared that the college is at the highest point it’s been at in the last ten years. The college has not accepted federal student loans in the last ten years. Like most community colleges, Beaufort County Community College does not accept student loans. About half of colleges in the North Carolina Community College System are not part of the federal student loan program, because of high default rates in the future. Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships and grants they do not have to pay back. 

“I think from a fiscal perspective and from an enrollment perspective, the college is doing extraordinarily well,” Loope said. 

The retention rate for the 2022-2023 academic year was 67% among full-time students, but 41% among part-time students. These percentages reflect first-time 2021 students who enrolled in 2022 fall classes. The graduation rate for full-time, first degree-seeking students who began their studies in 2019 was 45%. These students began in 2019 and graduated within four years versus 31% of students who began in Fall of 2018. 

Loope continued to share enrollment is down by approximately 1.5%, but he is “actually pleased with that” because it means the college is able to retain nearly all students.   

Most of the students who attend Beaufort County Community College are between the ages of 25-44. To Loope, this is a good sign because these are students who are more likely to stay in the area, work here and have families here. 

The college’s ratio of women to men students has improved to 52% women to 48% men. Dr. Loope shared that for most community colleges, women make up a higher percentage of the student population than men for a ratio of 65% women and 35% men. Which means men are likely enrolling in short-term workforce programs. 

For this academic year, Loope said two popular courses are truck driving and the fairly new Barber Academy which opened a new location on Main Street in Washington this summer. 

“We’re pleasantly surprised with the number of men and women who have enrolled in that program,” Loope said about the Barber Academy. The truck driving program and Barber Academy have waitlists. 

Because of where Beaufort County is located, most items need to be imported by trucks, and Beaufort County Community College’s program trains as many truck drivers as possible which can be a benefit to the local economy. That training, Loope said, is a good sign of “helping the economy in Eastern North Carolina, and enabling people to get sustainable employment that pays a living wage.” 

For the 2023-2024 academic year, Loope is looking forward to growing the boat building program and collaborating with Beaufort County School and their boat building class at Washington High School. “It’s an exciting time for that in Beaufort County” Loope said.  

He is also looking forward to a possible partnership with the Washington-Warren Airport and Xelevate. The college could offer pilot training for airplanes and drones.