Carteret Community College history instructor Greta Quinn holds a welcome back sign as she greets students Wednesday, which was opening day of the 2019 fall semester at CCC. (Cheryl Burke photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Holding welcome signs, Carteret Community College faculty and staff stood in front of campus buildings greeting students Wednesday for the opening day of the 2019 fall semester.

Students seemed to appreciate the welcoming gesture, including John Austin of Cedar Point.

“I’m looking forward to being back in school,” Mr. Austin, who is majoring in aquaculture technology, said.

Other students, like Madison Varano of Newport, 18, were a bit apprehensive about the new college experience.

“I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited,” Ms. Varano said. “I decided to start college here to stay closer to home.”

CCC Dean of Student Services Dana Merck said the college has focused on more outreach to students this past year, encouraging them to not only come to the campus for the first time, but return to finish their degree programs, especially those who struggled following Hurricane Florence.

“We’ve increased our efforts to engage students through email, social media and text messaging,” Mr. Merck said. “Engagement impacts retention. Our motto here is ‘Student Centered, Students First.’”

Mr. Merck said they’re also working with students to make sure they are taking advantage of financial aid opportunities.

“Over 70% of our students are getting financial aid,” Mr. Merck said. “It’s very important to a lot of our students, especially our first-generation college students. It’s important that they get the proper resources to succeed.”

CCC student life coordinator Gabe Raynor said he’s also reaching out to students, encouraging them to become active in campus life. The college held a Welcome Back Bash Wednesday, that included a DJ, live music and free food.

“We’ll also be holding our Subs and Clubs Day to let students learn and take advantage of club opportunities,” Mr. Raynor said. “We’re planning to have basketball tournaments and provide leadership opportunities where students can travel.”

Mr. Raynor said he plans to monitor the needs of students, especially those impacted by Hurricane Florence.

“We’ll stay close to the students and listen. We’ll help them find the resources they need,” Mr. Raynor said. “Anything we can do to find them help we will do. This isn’t just about being comfortable on the college campus. Students learn better when they’re also comfortable at home.”

The college’s outreach efforts ramped up last year after many students were displaced or lost vehicles during Hurricane Florence in September. Several students dropped courses or out of college altogether. However, college faculty and staff reached out to those students, providing relief through a special fund established by the state for college students affected by the storm.

Their efforts appear to be paying off. As of Thursday, there were 1,554 students enrolled, compared to 1,590 in fall 2018 prior to the hurricane. The drop-add period will continue through today.

Another factor the college is looking at is the amount of funding generated by students who appear to be taking more courses. The college uses a funding formula (full-time equivalency), which is based on the actual amount of time students are attending classes.

CCC vice president Tracy Mancini said FTE is up from last year, which means more funding for the college in the future. As of Thursday, the FTE for fall 2019 is 602. That compares to 524.7 for fall 2018.

CCC President Dr. John Hauser, who was walking the campus Wednesday greeting students, said he was excited about the new school year and seeing students back on campus.

“The first day has gone really well,” Dr. Hauser said. “The numbers are up and we’re excited about the new year. We have a number of new programs starting this fall. We also had a 100 percent passing rate this year in all of our health and cosmetology programs. I’m also super excited about our new culinary center and getting the career center on board this year. I appreciate the support of the county commissioners to make that happen.”

As for students who are interested in financial aid, CCC financial aid officer Brenda Long said it’s not too late to apply. For information, email or call 252-222-6293.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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