Local News

Committee Not Giving up on UNC-Rocky Mount

Posted March 29, 2007 6:22 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2007 6:24 p.m. EDT

— A committee in favor of creating a University of North Carolina campus in Rocky Mount says it is not giving up its fight, despite a recent commission study advising against the proposal.

The study, out this week, suggests not enough students in the area meet the academic requirements to attend what would become the University of North Carolina at Rocky Mount.

In part, the report highlights that "a significant portion of the lowest-performing high schools in the state are in the Rocky Mount area" and that to attract students from surrounding counties, admission standards would need to be set "quite low."

The report also suggests that "too few students in the area leave high school well prepared to pursue a college degree."

Members of the community have lobbied for months to turn private North Carolina Wesleyan College into the 17th campus in the UNC system. They believe the incentive of a local university campus will help fix education problems.

"It's an awful indictment to say to a kid, 'You (aren't) smart enough to go to college,'" said UNC-Rocky Mount Ad-Hoc Committee Chairman Tom Betts.

Betts proposes a mentoring program in local schools to help fill a local UNC school with qualified students.

"It is an insult to the student," Betts said. "That educational system they are part of clearly needs improving."

The report points to an 8 percent drop in students attending UNC schools from the Rocky Mount area from 2000 to 2005. The commission also says the estimated $200 million cost to get UNC-Rocky Mount started may be not be practical for the state.

Members are already working on a formal detailed response to the feasibility study report.

The commission -- led by UNC-Wilmington Chancellor James Leutze -- did recommend investments in the Rocky Mount area, such as learning centers and visiting professor programs.

The UNC Board of Governors will make the ultimate decision on whether to add a Rocky Mount campus. It is expected to take up the issue at its next regular meeting in May.

WRAL tried contacting Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools for this story, but no one would comment on the study.