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Higher ed highly valued in N.C.; Wingate helps make it attainable

by Chuck Gordon

Wingate fares well in areas that a Gallup survey says the people of North Carolina are looking for in a college: affordability and diversity.

The findings of a recent survey by My Future NC and Gallup show that North Carolinians highly value education beyond high school. Wingate University is helping make such an education more easily attainable.

Ninety-four percent of the nearly 3,500 people who responded to the survey said it is important for adults in North Carolina to have education beyond high school, including a professional certificate or degree. But only 14 percent are satisfied with the affordability of private colleges and universities in their area.

That’s where Wingate comes in. The University has worked hard to keep education affordable at a time when higher-education costs are rising. With the help of scholarship aid, Wingate’s average cost of attendance compares well with that of North Carolina’s public universities, with most students paying between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. And Wingate students from North Carolina received more than $5.8 million in NC Need-Based Scholarship funds in 2017. Forty-four percent of Wingate undergrads receive the NC Need-Based Scholarship.

Wingate professor with students

As a result, Wingate attracts a healthy proportion of its students – nearly 73 percent this year – from North Carolina.

“When I first started working in admissions, the first thing we said is we want to take care of those people that are closest to us,” Dr. Rhett Brown, currently Wingate University’s president and formerly its vice president in charge of enrollment, said earlier this year while announcing the True Homes Scholarship, which will go to students from 25 counties in the Carolinas. “We’re going to start at home and make sure we are taking care of them first to the best of our ability as we move outward.”

Students have responded by choosing Wingate in higher and higher numbers. Wingate is ranked No. 17 in the country in increase in the number of applications between 2012 and 2016. The growing interest helped make the University the fastest-growing independent college or university in North Carolina in 2017, with enrollment expanding 24 percent year-on-year.

The students who are coming here feel that they are getting their money’s worth. Seventy percent of respondents to the My Future NC/Gallup survey said that in order to get a good job, it was essential to continue schooling beyond high school. That’s roughly the same percentage of Wingate students who have said in internal University surveys that their Wingate education is worth the cost. The University surveys students annually via the Bulldog Poll, which asks students to comment on their experience at Wingate. In that poll, about 70 percent of students also say that their Wingate education has been transformative.

Wingate makes sure the education it provides is transformative for people of all backgrounds. In the My Future NC/Gallup survey, only 24 percent of respondents agreed that all students in North Carolina receive the same quality of education regardless of their background.

But Wingate opens doors to students from a variety of circumstances. The University’s ethnic diversity has increased 26 percent in the past five years, and, according to College Scorecard, the Wingate student body is now more ethnically diverse than that of many of North Carolina’s public universities, including Appalachian State, N.C. State and East Carolina, and independent institutions, such as Gardner-Webb, High Point, Davidson and Wake Forest.

Thirty-nine percent of Wingate’s undergraduates receive a Pell Grant, federal aid that is awarded to students with financial need. Those students graduate, too: Wingate is one of only 14 colleges and universities nationwide whose graduation rate is higher for Pell Grant recipients than for those who don’t receive a Pell Grant.

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November 30, 2018