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Richmond Community College Guarantee Recipients Say Free Tuition Has Eased the Financial Burden of College

Analuz Carrillo (left), Logan Pearson (center) and Zarna Shah (right) are three recipients of the RCC Guarantee.
Photos courtesy of Richmond Community College.

HAMLET – Richmond Community College blazed a trail for free college in North Carolina when it established the RCC Guarantee in 2016. Under the Guarantee, students earn two years free college tuition, providing their families with a savings of $4,800 in tuition costs. 

Over 70 students enrolled in Fall 2016 in that first group of RCC Guarantee recipients. These Richmond and Scotland County students qualified for the Guarantee because they successfully completed two college dual enrollment classes while in high school and graduated high school with an unweighted grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

For many of these students, the RCC Guarantee helped them make the decision to start college close to home and take advantage of two years free tuition.

Analuz Carrillo

“Knowing that I could qualify for two free years of college absolutely changed mine and my family’s circumstances,” said Analuz Carrillo, who graduated from Richmond Senior High School. “Because of the RCC Guarantee, college was no longer a financial burden.”

Carrillo is completing her Associate in Arts degree this December and will be graduating early due to the number of college credits she accumulated in high school as a Career and College Promise dual enrollment student. She plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill next fall.

“Attending Richmond Community College was the best decision I’ve made,” Carrillo said. “The profound love I feel here at RCC has allowed me to grow, expand, and innovate in many areas. The support I have received from every faculty member, custodians and the president, Dr. Dale McInnis, is valuable to me. I cannot wait to give back to the best community college in the state and become an alumna who leaves a legacy for others to follow.”

Carrillo’s goal is to attend the Kenan Flagler Business School and graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration and eventually earn a doctorate degree. She’s driven to one day start her own holistic hospital and “fix America’s broken healthcare system.”

Zarna Shah

Another RCC Guarantee student who is graduating this December is Zarna Shah, who will be receiving an Associate in Science degree. Like Carrillo, she also earned many college credits through the dual enrollment program when she was a student at Richmond Senior High. She will be transferring to UNC-Charlotte for the 2018 Spring Semester.

“My long-term goal is to earn my master’s degree and get a job in the field of cyber security,” she said.

Shah was not ready to go off to a four-year university after high school, so the RCC Guarantee gave her reason to start college close to home.

“The RCC Guarantee has helped me complete with ease my first two years of college out of the six years I’ll be taking. It has helped me stay stress free about worrying how I will be paying for my college expenses,” Shah said. “The RCC Guarantee also helped me take my first steps towards my career goal.”

Stephen Sessoms

The RCC Guarantee is definitely helping Stephen Sessoms’ career goal of becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). A graduate of Scotland High School, Sessoms is enrolled in the Associate Degree Nursing program.

“The Guarantee did help me choose Richmond Community College, but I also wanted to come here because it’s close to home,” Sessoms said.

Like other recipients, the Guarantee is helping him “not stress about paying for college,” and the dual enrollment classes he took while in high school have helped him get further along in his college credits.

Sessoms will graduate from the ADN program in 2019, and he plans to work as a registered nurse before going back and getting his Bachelor of Science in Nursing. From there, he wants to earn his master’s and enroll in a CRNA program.

Meghan Wellman

Meghan Wellman was homeschooled and taking dual enrollment classes at RCC when she learned she qualified for the Guarantee. It was a key factor in her choosing to attend RCC during the Fall 2016 semester, despite her family moving an hour away.

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Wellman is enrolled in both the Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degree programs, and she will finish both programs this spring semester.

“The Guarantee has been a lot of help for me and my family because we haven’t had to worry about having enough money to pay for the classes that I need to get my degrees. Plus, at one point, three members of my family were attending classes at RCC,” Wellman said. “With my dad working overseas and my mom having only just graduated from nursing school, it’s nice to have one less thing to stress about.”

Wellman hasn’t decided yet where she wants to transfer, but she does intend to get a bachelor’s degree.

“At the moment, my plans are to get a degree in something along the lines of zoology or some sort of animal science and hopefully go on to work either in a zoo, wildlife rehab or wildlife education. I may even try to specialize in big cats,” she said.

Logan Pearson

Even before graduating Richmond Senior High School, Logan Pearson knew he was coming to RCC to enroll in the Electric Utility Substation and Relay Technology (EUSRT) program. The RCC Guarantee just sweetened the deal.

“If the EUSRT program was not offered at RCC, however, then the RCC Guarantee could have been a factor that would have led me to come to RCC for another career path,” he said. “I think the Guarantee is a great program that can help many people to continue their education, especially if they cannot get financial aid.”

Pearson will graduate from the EUSRT program in May.

“I already have a job lined up with Duke Energy, but I am considering continuing my education online with East Carolina University to get my four-year degree while I continue my career with Duke Energy,” Pearson said.

Like many who get a job working as a relay technician in the utility industry, Pearson plans to make a lifelong career of it.

For More Information

High school students who are interested in taking dual enrollment classes at RCC should contact their school counselor. Home school students can contact Director of K-12 Partnerships Kary Edmondson at (910) 410-1928 or kcedmondson@richmondcc.edu.

To learn more about the RCC Guarantee, visit www.richmondcc.edu/guarantee.

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