ASHEVILLE NC – Western Carolina University has been designated a “College of Distinction” for 2013-14 by an online guide that provides information for prospective college students, their parents and high school counselors.
WCU is one of eight colleges and universities in North Carolina recognized by the website collegesofdistinction.com, which puts the spotlight on the “hidden gems” of higher education. Schools listed on the website are judged in four areas: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant communities and successful outcomes.
Colleges are nominated for the honor by high school counselors, college administrators and the website’s selection team. Schools are selected based on interviews with college admission experts, representatives from the nominated schools and administrators at other colleges, and the results of site visits. Other information such as graduation rates and classroom sizes also is considered.
In its section about WCU, that guide says the university “is on the cutting edge of technology, but it holds onto the timeless tradition of a personal approach to education, which has been a hallmark since the university’s inception in 1889.”
ASHEVILLE NC – College financial aid officers and specialists will be available at Western Carolina University on Saturday, Feb. 23, to help high school seniors and families complete and submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms online.
The event at WCU, to be held from 9 a.m. until noon in Room 303 of the Forsyth Building, is part of a series of statewide FAFSA Day programs in all 100 counties of North Carolina.
Completing the FAFSA form is a requirement to be considered for all federal and most state financial aid for college, including scholarships and grants. This year’s statewide FAFSA Day is sponsored by College Foundation of North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and State Employees’ Credit Union.
Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, although not required. To register, visit the website CFNC.org/FAFSAday or call 866-866-CFNC.
To be fully prepared to complete the FAFSA on Saturday, participants should either file their 2012 federal taxes in advance or bring the following items: both the student’s and parents’ federal 1040 tax forms for 2012 (or W-2 forms and other income and asset documents if completed tax forms are not available); the student’s and one parent’s personal identification numbers (PINs) obtained in advance from the U.S. Department of Education website, www.pin.ed.gov; and a financial aid worksheet with as much information entered as possible. The online worksheet is available at www.fafsa.gov.
“It’s important to complete the FAFSA early to take advantage of all of the financial aid opportunities available for North Carolinians,” said Robbie Schultz of the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority and CFNC coordinator of the FAFSA Day program. “Students and parents don’t need to worry if they aren’t sure how to answer all of the questions on the form. That’s why we have arranged to have experienced financial aid specialists to help at each FAFSA Day site.”
Filing 2012 federal taxes early will simplify FAFSA completion, Schultz said. “Those who file well in advance of FAFSA Day can use the IRS data retrieval tool on the FAFSA form to transfer their tax information directly onto their FAFSA,” he said. “If a student or parent hasn’t yet filed taxes, they can estimate income information on the FAFSA, and then use the IRS data retrieval tool to submit FAFSA corrections at a later date.”
Another option for students and parents with a few questions on completing the FAFSA is the “FAFSA Phone-In” offered every Tuesday night in February. Financial aid specialists and experts will be available to answer specific FAFSA questions on the toll-free number, 866-866-CFNC (2362), from 5 to 8 p.m.
Additional free college planning information is available at the College Foundation of North Carolina website, CFNC.org. Families can find financial aid videos, college cost estimators, listings of scholarship, grant and loan opportunities, information about North Carolina’s 529 college savings plan, career information, virtual tours of more than 100 of the state’s college campuses and online college admission and financial aid applications.
ASHEVILLE NC – A-B Tech’s newest location in Arden has seats open for spring semester classes starting March 12. The eight-week classes, ideal for busy schedules, cover the same material as a full semester class but in half the time.
“The development of A-B Tech South is in alignment with A-B Tech’s mission and further promotes its vision to be locally committed,” said Jason Fair, Coordinator of A-B Tech South. “Southern Buncombe County is a rapidly growing sector of the College’s service area and includes a burgeoning business environment. By introducing programs closer in proximately, the College further reinforces its commitment to serve southern Buncombe County residents and businesses.”
Classes open include Principles of Management, Business Ethics, Introduction to Computers, Literature-Based Research and Critical Thinking. A-B Tech South, which opened in January, is located at 305 Airport Road in Arden. Visit abtech.edu or call 398-7520.
ASHEVILLE NC – For the seventh year in a row, UNC Asheville was selected as one of the “Best Value” public colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. “Best Value Colleges: 2013 Edition,” profiling the top 75 public colleges and top 75 private colleges, was published today; the rankings were also reported in today’s edition of USA Today.
“The liberal arts tradition is alive and well at UNC Asheville, where students are encouraged to question, to discuss,” according to The Princeton Review. The guidebook also credits the university with preparing graduates for today’s tough job market: “The myriad research opportunities help flesh out a résumé, and the stress on real world application gets students job-ready before they even set foot outside the mountains.”
Students told The Princeton Review they appreciate the small class size at UNC Asheville and a feeling that “faculty are overwhelmingly supportive of the students … they know our names.” One student described UNC Asheville as “a school that promotes the growth of its students with an emphasis on a personal approach to undergraduate education.” The Princeton Review concluded that “UNC Asheville is an inexpensive way to achieve an excellent education, at a school that may be less intimidating than a larger institution.”
UNC Asheville students described the university as “a lot of fun to live at,” in the “amazing and quirky city” of Asheville. The Princeton Review noted the university’s mountain location with ready access to outdoor sports and activities, so in the words of one student, “you are never bored.” Last April, Princeton Review also listed UNC Asheville among America’s “green” colleges and universities.
The Princeton Review selected the top 150 institutions from among a larger pool of 650 colleges selected for academic excellence. Its rankings are based on institutional data, surveys of university administrators and student opinion surveys collected in 2011-12. The selection criteria focused on undergraduate academics, costs and financial aid.
The Princeton Review’s assessment of UNC Asheville echoes many other prominent college rankings. In September, UNC Asheville was ranked seventh in the nation among public liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, which also listed the university among those where students graduate with the least amount of debt. UNC Asheville was also praised for value and quality by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Forbes magazine, and the “Fiske Guide to Colleges” called UNC Asheville “one of the best education bargains in the country.”
ASHEVILLE NC – Total student enrollment at Western Carolina University has topped 9,600 for the first time in WCU history, thanks to an increase of nearly 3 percent in the size of the freshman class and an improvement in the university’s retention rate.
Enrollment for fall 2012 is 9,608, a 2.7 percent increase over fall 2011 enrollment of 9,352. The previous enrollment record of 9,429 was set in the fall semester of 2009.
That’s the word from WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, which compiles official census statistics for reporting to the University of North Carolina system.
The number of first-time, full-time freshmen at WCU this fall is 1,551, up 2.85 percent from the fall 2011 freshman class of 1,508, said Melissa Wargo, assistant vice chancellor for planning and effectiveness.
The average high school weighted grade-point average for the freshman class this year is 3.63, up slightly from last year’s overall freshman class GPA of 3.61, Wargo said.
The university’s freshman retention rate – the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who return for their sophomore year – is 73.67 percent, an improvement over last year’s retention rate of 72.03 percent, she said.
University officials attribute some of the growth in enrollment to increased student interest in several undergraduate programs, including engineering, health and the human sciences.
James Zhang, interim dean of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology, said that the number of entering freshmen who have declared a major in engineering or have signed up for pre-engineering courses doubled, jumping to 36 this semester from 18 last fall.
Although some of those students will change majors before officially entering the program, that level of growth in one year signals that students are interested in WCU’s new stand-alone engineering program, Zhang said.
This semester marks the first cohort of entering freshmen since the UNC Board of Governors in February authorized Western Carolina to offer the bachelor of science degree in engineering with a concentration in electrical engineering. WCU had previously partnered with UNC Charlotte to jointly offer the bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.
According to preliminary numbers, total enrollment in programs in the College of Health and Human Sciences grew by 11 percent over the previous year’s enrollment, with a whopping 12.5 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment.
Students in those programs, which were located across four buildings, are now studying in WCU’s new Health and Human Sciences Building, a $46 million, 160,000-square-foot facility that features technologically advanced clinical and laboratory spaces.
Other features include multiple student collaborative learning spaces, three simulation labs, videoconferencing and tele-health capabilities, and a therapeutic pool for teaching and performing aquatic therapy. Faculty members will be able to view live video feeds of interaction between patients and students, and host guest speakers who are off-site. In addition, the building’s size and parking will allow for growth of unique clinics that support community needs.
The facility is the first to be constructed on 344 acres WCU acquired across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus as part of the Millennial Initiative.
ASHEVILLE, NC – UNC Asheville has been named one of America’s “10 best colleges for the money,” by Bankrate.com, a leading online source of financial information. UNC Asheville was the only college in North Carolina to earn a place on this list, which was released this month.
Bankrate.com examined the admissions selectivity at the nation’s colleges, and net cost for middle-income families, and listed UNC Asheville among the 10 best. “For students with good grades, these institutions are educational steals, thanks to their low tuition costs, generous financial aid packages or innovative aid opportunities,” wrote study author Christina Couch.
According to Bankrate.com, UNC Asheville’s in-state tuition “is a breeze,” and once financial aid is factored in, the University is a significant value for out-of-state students as well: “This public liberal arts school provides enough need-based aid to bring the net price of the school down to less than $8,800 for families with combined incomes of $75,000 or below.”
Bankrate.com noted that “small schools provide students with greater one-on-one professor attention,” and stressed that UNC Asheville’s size, with fewer than 4,000 students, contributes to the high quality of the educational experience.
Others who assess the nation’s colleges have come to similar conclusions. In its 2011 “Best Colleges” guidebook, U.S. News and World Report listed UNC Asheville among the nation’s liberal arts colleges with the strongest commitment to undergraduate teaching. UNC Asheville was also one of only 25 universities in the nation to make the U.S. News & World Report list of “stellar” schools for undergraduate research/creative projects. UNC Asheville has also been praised as a best value in the most recent rankings from Princeton Review, Fiske Guide to Colleges, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.