$1.56 Trillion. That is the current estimated student loan debt in America, and it grows minute by minute. As the cost of education continues to increase throughout the country, more and more students are forced to take student loans to pay for their degrees. The average individual student loan debt in this country is $32,731 and 1 in 4 Americans owe student debt. That’s an estimated 44.7 million people.
While those Western Carolina University undergraduates who owe student debt graduate with an average of $25,529 of debt -- 22 percent less than the national average -- our goal is to continue to provide options for students to incur as little debt as possible. WCU is committed to providing a high-quality, affordable education for anyone who wishes to pursue an undergraduate degree.
These are some of the ways we do that.
NC Promise is a ground-breaking North Carolina program to drive college affordability. What that means for students and parents is that the cost of tuition is $500 per semester for in-state undergraduate students and $2,500 per semester for out-of-state undergraduate students. The program began in Fall 2018 and applies to all new and returning students, transfer students, students in online programs and international students.
This means that the undergraduate cost of attendance decreased 13% overall in 2018-19. Additionally, WCU experienced an overall 17.3% decrease in debt incurred by students in the 2018-19 academic year.
Western Carolina University offers numerous scholarships, both need-based and merit-based, supporting a wide variety of student types and fields of study. In addition, WCU’s scholarship support staff work to connect students with state-administered scholarship opportunities and other sources of support.
In 2019, Lead the Way, a comprehensive fundraising campaign, focused on the need for increased scholarship support. At the close of the campaign, more than $61M had been raised and 200 new scholarships created, bringing the total scholarships available through WCU to 571.
In addition to Veterans Administration and Department of Defense education programs for military students and their families, WCU created the Military Gap Scholarship to assist students with unexpected out-of-pocket costs for school. WCU also offers a military tuition rate for out-of-state online students that is significantly lower than out-of-state tuition and that falls below the caps the military places on tuition assistance.
The university participates in Yellow Ribbon, a program to help pay unmet tuition expenses for students using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. And WCU also participates in the Veterans Administration Work Study program, allowing qualified students to work and earn additional income while attending school.
Western Carolina University is home to top-ranked distance programs in fields ranging from nursing to education to engineering, and tuition rates are surprisingly affordable. For undergraduate courses, in-state tuition per credit hour is only $53.88 and for out-of-state is only $189.02.
At WCU, we build online learning communities that bring accomplished students together with professors dedicated to their success, and we do it at a rate that helps keep students out of debt.