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Press Release


August 31, 2018

New $51 million college affordability initiative boosts enrollment while improving student quality

CHAPEL HILL, NC — North Carolina’s groundbreaking new low-tuition plan, NC Promise, is driving significant increases in undergraduate enrollments as tuition drops to just $500 a semester at three UNC System institutions: Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke, and Western Carolina University.

The new plan, driven by an annual $51 million investment by the North Carolina General Assembly, has led to record-setting undergraduate enrollment, an increase in student quality, and a surge in undergraduate transfer student enrollment at all three institutions.

“NC Promise is an ambitious and bold answer to the legitimate concerns about college costs and student debt,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings. “Here in the state that invented public higher education, our lawmakers have helped put an affordable degree within reach of every North Carolinian.”



Total undergrad enrollment

Percent increase over Fall 2017

First-year enrollment

Percent increase over Fall 2017

Undergrad transfer new enrollments

Percent increase over Fall 2017






















The NC Promise Tuition Plan, originally approved by state lawmakers in 2016 and launched in Fall 2018, reduces in-state tuition to $500 per semester and out-of-state tuition to $2,500 per semester at the three institutions. All students, including those enrolled before Fall 2018, are eligible for NC Promise and are automatically enrolled in the program regardless of financial means. Spanning the state from the mountains to the coast, an NC Promise institution is located within 150 miles of every North Carolinian.

“NC Promise builds on our state’s long-standing commitment to keeping its public education system affordable for all North Carolinians,” added President Spellings. “All NC Promise institutions are uniquely tied to historically underserved regions and have long been pillars of their community.”

At Elizabeth City State University, an HBCU in northeastern North Carolina, NC Promise has driven enrollment to a 5-year high at a resurgent institution with a proud history of empowering an economically struggling region. This freshman class includes the largest number of students enrolled in the honors program in ECSU history. The university’s aviation degree and its online interdisciplinary studies degree are also among the fastest growing programs driving enrollment growth.

“The increase in transfer numbers as well as the increase in out-of-state freshmen, especially from the Tidewater, Virginia area, are a direct result of NC Promise,” said ECSU Interim Chancellor Karrie Dixon. “We are incredibly grateful that the NC General Assembly acted to put an initiative in place to address access and affordability, making a quality education available for students from all backgrounds and walks of life.”

In Southeastern North Carolina, UNC Pembroke’s continued growth, evidenced by a new College of Health Sciences as well as a new School of Business, has been accelerated by NC Promise as the Historically Minority Serving Institution deepens its roots in a county and region with some of the most urgent health disparities and upward mobility issues in the state. UNC Pembroke’s growth has resulted in the largest freshman class on record as well as the highest number of transfer students in university history.

“Through NC Promise, more students than ever before are seeing the value in the high-quality and affordable education UNC Pembroke offers,” said UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “This innovative program is helping us advance UNCP and the UNC System’s shared mission of access and affordability, and this fall’s historic enrollment growth is the result of the visionary commitment to the power and potential of higher education by our state’s leaders.”

At Western Carolina University, NC Promise is not only leading to continued enrollment growth for a student body that has increased in seven of the last eight years, but it is also helping to drive a freshman class with the highest average GPA in the institution’s history. For a university whose identity is intimately connected with serving the communities around it, NC Promise is allowing WCU to be more accessible than ever.

“With the onset of the NC Promise tuition plan, a Western Carolina University education becomes an even better value for our students and their parents,” said WCU Interim Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “We are excited to be a part of this effort to improve affordability for North Carolina families and to help reduce the amount of student loan debt facing our graduates, leaving them with more money in their pockets to invest in their local communities.”

For more information on the NC Promise tuition plan, visit www.ncpromise.com.