New Pathways Into the University

A university degree brings economic mobility and social value. For this reason, the state of North Carolina has historically kept the cost of its universities low to incentivize residents to pursue higher education.

In many cases, cost alone isn’t the only barrier to education. The UNC System also recognizes the importance of helping potential students find the right pathway into the University. Enhancing access to all UNC System institutions involves inspiring prospective students from many different backgrounds and experiences to see higher education as an attainable and life-changing opportunity.

This is especially critical for prospective first-generation students without parents or siblings who can model applying to, enrolling in, and graduating from college. Enhancing access involves helping adult students create flexible course schedules so they can balance academic pursuits with professional and domestic responsibilities. Enhancing access involves helping military-affiliated students transition into their new learning environment and receive credit for previous knowledge and training.

The UNC System utilizes academic, financial, cultural, and other knowledge-based services to help all students enroll in and graduate from institutions that fulfill their intellectual and social aspirations. This work also includes providing multiple entry points into the University, such as pathways for transfer students and options for online courses.

Finding Students From All 100 Counties

The UNC System is committed to the goal of increasing enrollments among underrepresented populations, including economically disadvantaged and rural students.

Efforts at each institution and at the System level have encouraged K-12 students in every corner of the state to recognize that higher education isn’t just for residents in metropolitan areas … it’s open and accessible to students of every age, living in all 100 North Carolina counties.

The College Foundation of North Carolina ( is perhaps the most visible statewide effort to help North Carolinians find a way into higher education. partners with all 110 public and private North Carolina colleges and serves as an application portal for nearly every post-secondary institution in the state. This free, comprehensive resource is designed to help students and families plan, apply, and pay for college.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a national college access initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education. GEAR UP North Carolina supports students and families in the state’s most economically disadvantaged areas. The UNC System administers North Carolina’s statewide GEAR UP initiatives.

The federal goal of the program is to increase the number of students in disadvantaged communities who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

In support of this federal goal, the UNC System has received multiple grants to fund efforts to inspire and support the college aspirations of students living in North Carolina’s most economically distressed counties.