For many UNC-Chapel Hill students, the journey to a four-year degree begins in community college, and the University’s Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, or C-STEP, is helping secure that pathway for more North Carolinians and providing greater access to higher education.
Founded in 2006 with support from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to serving students with financial needs — C-STEP prepares community college students to transfer to and graduate from Carolina. The program partners with 14 community colleges across the state to identify talented low- and moderate-income students and then guarantees their admission to Carolina after they earn an associate degree and meet other requirements.
The program is more than just a transfer guarantee, however. C-STEP supports the students while they’re in community college by providing academic advisors to plan their studies, inviting them to Chapel Hill to experience Carolina and creating shadowing opportunities. As the Tar Heels prepare to move to Chapel Hill, C-STEP helps with the transition by providing peer mentors and orientations.
C-STEP continues to support the students after they arrive in Chapel Hill, providing internship stipends and regular check-ins to ensure the Tar Heels are making the most of their time at Carolina.
“We aim to prepare and empower our students by providing a multi-tiered support system every step of the way,” said Rebecca Egbert, the C-STEP program director and associate director of undergraduate admissions. “C-STEP students will be academically prepared and fully engaged in their college and university communities – setting them on a path to success.”
Since launching, the program has helped more than 1,200 North Carolinians achieve their goals of attending Carolina.
“C-STEP helps students embrace the courage, strength and resiliency to pursue academics that they had all along but needed a boost to fully realize,” Egbert said. “I have seen students pull themselves out of poverty. I have seen students go back to the community in which they grew up and influence real change among young people. I have seen them freely give their own time to help others realize a Carolina dream. I have seen entire families change because one student had the courage to apply.”
Keep reading to learn more about C-STEP from Egbert
There are other ways to transfer to Carolina. What makes C-STEP different, and why is that important?
C-STEP aims to remove barriers that often hinder a student’s success. By removing these barriers, a student is free to build confidence and pursue their dreams with a strong foundation.
Via extensive research, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation concluded that underrepresented and underserved student populations historically “undermatch” when deciding where to transfer after community college. In this case, “undermatching” refers to a student’s preference to choose a school based on factors such as convenience, proximity to home/family, fear of the unknown, etc., rather than one that stretches and challenges them academically. Jack Kent Cooke identified elite public institutions across the country to create special admission programs to help these students realize their true potential and match with an elite institution, with the help of holistic and academic supports.
Why is Carolina a fitting university for a program like this?
Carolina offers world-renowned educational and experiential learning opportunities that go far beyond the classroom. Also, Carolina’s campus partners, such as University Career Services, the Learning Center, the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid and Academic Advising, provide incredible supports for our students once they transfer. We believe that C-STEP students will be well-equipped and driven to take advantage of these opportunities.
C-STEP directly aligns with Carolina’s mission statement to serve all North Carolinians and provide top-notch research, opportunities and knowledge, and ‘enhance the quality of life for all people in the state’ with the goal of expanding access to higher education. Our institution is equipped to support these students and change lives via C-STEP.
You’ve been involved in C-STEP since it launched 16 years ago. What keeps you motivated to work with this program?
I believe in creating real opportunity and helping people realize they can attend Carolina and it will change their lives forever. They have it in them to do it- we just provide an easy roadmap to guide them. I get to go to work and watch people learn and grow over a period of time. I see the real difference Carolina can make in a person’s life. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something that great?
What do C-STEP students add to the Carolina community?
From veterans to immigrants, first-generation college to non-traditional students and beyond, C-STEP serves a very diverse group of students who have taken alternate pathways to Carolina that brings invaluable perspectives and knowledge to the table, both in and out of the classroom. Our students are driven, thoughtful and engaged — the perfect addition to our Carolina community.