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New agreement smooths transition for SCC graduates to attend WCU

Southwestern Community College President Don Tomas (left) and Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli R. Brown shake hands after signing a memorandum of understanding to establish the Catamount Compass Program.

Leaders of Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College met Tuesday, Oct. 1, to sign a memorandum of understanding that guarantees admission to WCU for all SCC graduates who satisfy criteria spelled out in the document.

With a flourish of pen strokes, WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown and SCC President Don Tomas established the Catamount Compass Program during a signing ceremony in the board room of H.F. Robinson Administration Building on the WCU campus.

The direct-entry admission program builds upon the existing North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement that governs the transfer of credits between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina System.

The agreement follows a gathering earlier this year of six community college leaders at WCU to discuss ways that two- and four-year institutions can work better together to provide a more seamless transition for students seeking additional higher education opportunities.

“We want to make the process of transferring to Western Carolina University as smooth as possible for the graduates of all our community college partners across the region and the state,” Brown said. “This new memorandum of understanding is an important tool in providing well-defined directions for SCC graduates who are looking to further their education just down the road at Western.”

The agreement also represents the latest step in a history of collaboration between the university and SCC, which was the second-largest feeder institution for students transferring to WCU for the fall 2019 semester. Of the 818 students who transferred to WCU this fall from community colleges, 105 of them – or 12.8 percent – came from Southwestern Community College.

“We’re proud to build on our strong and longstanding relationship with our educational partners at Western Carolina University,” said Tomas. “Our Jackson Campus is a five-minute drive from Cullowhee, and the vast majority of our college transfer graduates go directly to WCU. We’re all here today to serve our students, and I’m gratified that this agreement will contribute to their success. I want to thank our friends at Western and my colleagues at SCC who’ve worked together to make this agreement possible.”

The onset of the NC Promise tuition plan, which reduces the cost of in-state tuition to $500 per semester at WCU and two other UNC System institutions, has resulted in a significant increase in the number of students transferring to WCU from community colleges and other four-year schools.

The WCU-SCC memorandum of understanding follows a similar agreement between Western and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in July. Additional agreements with other community colleges are in the works, said Phil Cauley, assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate enrollment.

To participate in the Catamount Compass Program, students must meet several conditions, including:

* Be a currently enrolled student at SCC in a degree-seeking capacity.

* Submit WCU application for admission and records by the university deadline.

* Submit application fee or waiver and fulfill all commitment action steps.

* Be in good standing at SCC and other institutions attended.

* Demonstrate good citizenship and conduct.

* Earn and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 at SCC and a minimum GPA of 2.20 in the most recently completed academic term.

* Earn an associate degree from SCC in a college transfer program or in an applied program for which an articulation agreement exists.

* Enroll at WCU within one academic year (within the next two regular terms or fall/spring semesters) of completion of the associate degree.

Although the Catamount Compass Program does guarantee admission to WCU for those SCC graduates who meet the requirements, it does not guarantee admission into a specific degree program. Some programs of study at WCU have their own programmatic admission criteria, standards, policies, processes and deadlines.

For more information about how to transfer to WCU, visit the website For more information about applying to SCC, visit

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