Home Lifestyle More than 1,700 students return to UNC System through innovative partnership with...

More than 1,700 students return to UNC System through innovative partnership with Project Kitty Hawk

UNCP is experiencing record enrollment for the fourth year in a row, according to university census data. Enrollment for Fall 2021 stands at 8,319, a 0.7% increase compared with Fall 2020. Over the last five years, UNCP has seen a 32% spike in overall enrollment.
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RALEIGH — A first-of-its-kind program aimed at bringing former students back into the UNC System to complete their bachelor’s degree is having a substantial effect on enrollment throughout the state.

The Re-Enrollment Program — offered by Project Kitty Hawk, an affiliated entity of the UNC System — contacts former students who started a degree at a UNC System institution but never finished. Re-enrollment counselors walk them through options of when and how they can resume their studies, including re-enrolling at their former university or finding another institution within the UNC System that fits their needs. Since the PKH Re-Enrollment Program began in May 2023, 1,791 students have been brought back into UNC System institutions through the program.

Miyaka Mackie, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is one of those students. Since she graduated high school 28 years ago, she paused her studies several times as she juggled her education with a career and raising four children. She returned to UNC Pembroke in January through the PKH Re-Enrollment Program after identifying a set of courses that met her needs.

“For me, working full time and raising kids, taking online classes is the only way I could do it,” said Mackie, who expects to graduate in 2025. “It gives me the flexibility to do my schoolwork after work or late at night. That’s key for me.”

In its first year, 10 UNC System institutions have signed up to participate in the Re-Enrollment Program. The universities that have re-enrolled the most learners are UNC Pembroke (362 students), Western Carolina University (356 students), and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (303 students). The 362 students re-enrolled at UNC Pembroke represent over 6% of the university’s undergraduate enrollment as of Fall 2023.

“Our partnership with PKH has proven to be invaluable for UNCP, greatly enhancing our efforts to re-engage students and support them as they return to achieve their goals,” said Dr. Robin Cummings, chancellor of UNC Pembroke. “Whether they are simply re-enrolling to finish what they started or seeking new opportunities in life, it is incredibly rewarding to see the project’s positive impact for so many individuals. As a school of access, UNCP is appreciative for the work this collaboration has initiated to remove barriers and ensure North Carolinians have every opportunity to pursue higher education.”

PKH offers its Re-Enrollment Program free of charge to UNC System institutions. To participate in the program, institutions provide a list of students who stopped attending college before earning their degrees. That list encompasses both recent students and those who have been out of school for over 10 years. These former students then receive phone calls, emails, or text messages from counselors at ReUp Education, PKH’s partner in the Re-Enrollment Program, letting them know what options exist if they choose to return to a UNC System institution.

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“Over 300 students who had stopped their higher education journey are returning to WCU thanks to our collaboration with PKH,” said Dr. Kelli R. Brown, chancellor of Western Carolina University. “By partnering with us in identifying and communicating with these students, PKH significantly assisted us in our mission to provide higher education opportunities to all North Carolinians. That is a great win for WCU, our state, and – most importantly – these students.”

Fifty-two percent of students who have re-enrolled through the PKH Re-Enrollment Program have been out of school for at least three years – a demographic that universities across the country often struggle to bring back into higher education.

The 10 UNC System institutions part of the Re-Enrollment Program have collectively realized over $3 million in additional revenue from student tuition thanks to their participation in the program. This figure does not account for other revenues, such as fees, room and board or other costs of attendance that students pay when they return to school.

“The PKH Re-Enrollment Program has returned hundreds of students to UNCG over the past year – and many of these students would have never re-engaged with our university,” said Dr. Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., chancellor of UNCG. “Bringing these students back into our university is not only a benefit to UNCG, but also to the communities in which these students live.”

The PKH Re-Enrollment Program represents the first UNC Systemwide effort to re-enroll former students.

Along with the Re-Enrollment Program, PKH also enables universities to offer online degree programs that are designed to meet the needs of adult learners. Since the first program launched in October 2023, enrollments in PKH-powered programs have doubled or tripled in each subsequent term. Today, more than 200 adult learners are enrolled in PKH-powered degree programs.