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Leaders from Central Carolina Community College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have announced a new partnership to improve opportunities for students to transfer to and graduate from Carolina.

The new partnership is an expansion of the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, or C-STEP, an innovative program that has helped nearly 250 students enroll at Carolina since its launch in 2006.

C-STEP identifies talented low- to moderate-income students while they are still in high school or early in their community-college careers; guarantees their eventual admission to Carolina if they earn an appropriate associate degree and successfully complete the program; and offers special events and advising, both at their home college and at Carolina, while they are pursuing their associate degrees.

Central Carolina, which has campuses in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties, is the sixth partner school to join the program, which already includes Alamance and Carteret community colleges and Durham, Fayetteville and Wake technical community colleges.

“We’re grateful for this opportunity to expand C-STEP to another part of North Carolina,” said Holden Thorp, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill. “This partnership will help students find their way to Carolina and graduate on time. We look forward to welcoming these students to Chapel Hill and helping them achieve their dreams.”

Central Carolina and UNC-Chapel Hill will immediately begin working to identify a cohort of eight to 15 students to enter the program as soon as August 2011.

“On behalf of our students, faculty and administration, we are excited to become part of the C-STEP family,” said Dr. T. Eston Marchant, president of Central Carolina Community College. “Our students are more than ready to make full use of this opportunity. We know they will make their mark on the world as graduates of Central Carolina and UNC-Chapel Hill.”

C-STEP was founded at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2006 with a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. To date, 86 percent of all C-STEP students have earned their bachelor degrees within five semesters of their enrollment at UNC — a rate which equals that of first-year students at the University, who are among the best-prepared college students in the nation. A grant from the Triad Foundation First Generation Fund will support this latest expansion.