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A group of males students stand in a line at the front of a classroom. A whiteboard with algebra notes written on it is visible behind them.

FTCC students Benjamin Hawley, Caden Ketchman, David Meza, Kevin Growney and Michael Campbell, who are all in the same Linear Algebra class, are transferring to top four-year universities. [FTCC photo]

Fayetteville Technical Community College does a great job of preparing students to go directly into the workforce after graduation in fields as various as healthcare, building construction and information technology.

But FTCC also has a robust University Transfer program, where students can earn up to 2 years of credits that are directly transferrable to many top four-year colleges and universities.

Nowhere was this more apparent recently than in Math Instructor Lori Kiel’s Linear Algebra class.

All five students in the class are headed to top schools – three have been accepted into N.C. State University’s College of Engineering, one at a graduate level; one is going to UNC Charlotte’s College of Engineering; and the fifth, a senior at Cumberland Polytechnic High School on the FTCC campus, plans to attend Columbia University in New York City.

Caden Ketchman, the Columbia-bound student, was accepted at nine highly competitive schools, according to an article in the Fayetteville Observer. In addition to Columbia, they included Fordham University, New York University, Swarthmore College, UNC Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, Wesleyan College and Williams College. Ketchman graduated from FTCC on May 12 with an Associate in Science degree and will graduate from high school on May 25. 

Kiel said she sees many students transfer on to four-year schools, ranging from excellent in-state public universities all the way to the Ivy League. Besides Columbia, FTCC’s 2023 graduating class includes at least two students who are headed to Princeton. Daniel Chung, another student, is headed to Harvard, in part, he says, because of critical help he received at FTCC’s Student Learning Center. And Halona Dantes, who transferred to UNC Chapel Hill after earning her associate degree at FTCC in 2021, now has her bachelor’s degree and will head this fall to Yale, where she has been accepted into a doctoral program in physics.

“We always have higher achievers coming through,” Kiel said. “We always have motivated people coming through.”

But Kiel noted that other students work just as hard and achieve just as much in pursuit of their own vision of success.

“We have students in Math 110 who are just as driven, just as goal-oriented, they’re just different people with different goals,” she said. “They’re all impressive.”

The five students in Kiel’s Linear Algebra class this spring comprised a typically wide range of age and background – from the high school senior to a 34-year-old married Army veteran.

Math & Sciences Dean Dr. Cameron Harmon spoke to the students on May 8 after they gave their final presentations in Linear Algebra and was delighted to hear their comments about FTCC.

“All of them have completed upper-level math and physics courses at FTCC,” Harmon said. “They each commented how much they enjoyed their experience at FTCC, particularly in the math department, and have enjoyed the small class sizes and hands-on teaching they received.”

Kevin Growney, the 34-year-old Army veteran, said he attended FTCC for several reasons:

The 40 credit hours he earned at FTCC will transfer seamlessly to N.C. State, where he will be entering a graduate-level nuclear engineering program.

The smaller class sizes at FTCC meant more opportunity to interact with instructors.

FTCC’s affordability – “$76 an hour!” Growney exclaimed. The cost for the same courses at N.C. State would have been more than three times that amount.

Growney, who already had two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Missouri in linguistics and in Spanish language and literature, appreciated the quality of the instruction at FTCC.

“There’s not a single class that I’ve taken at FTCC that I don’t think was as good or better than any of the classes that I took at the University of Missouri,” he said. “The classes were fantastic.”

Growney said he hopes to use the engineering education he receives to help develop competitive, clean and sustainable sources of energy for the United States.

“I want to leave the world a cleaner place for my two young boys,” he said.

Benjamin Hawley and David Meza, both Army veterans in their 20s, both graduated with Associate in Engineering degrees and have both been accepted into N.C. State’s College of Engineering program.

Meza won a prestigious Goodnight Scholarship, an award given through N.C. State to students studying in STEM disciplines or affiliated education majors. The scholarship is worth $23,000 per year for up to three years for transfer students. Hawley was a finalist for the scholarship.

Meza, who grew up in California, said FTCC was his first college experience – and he loved it.

“I’ve had so many great teachers here, especially in the math department,” he said. “They made math not easy, but definitely more approachable and not scary.”

He said he found the school to be very welcoming, with helpful instructors and staff.

“I definitely would recommend FTCC,” he said. “I haven’t had any bad experiences with any classes or instructors.”

Meza said he valued the many services provided to students and wished he’d used the Student Learning Center more.

“I went there a couple of times and found they provide so much tutoring,” he said. “It blows my mind that it is not completely packed all the time. The second I saw it, I said I’m going to see if N.C. State has something like this.”

He currently plans to pursue a career in computer engineering.

Michael Campbell, 19, graduated with an Associate of Engineering degree and an Associate of Civil Engineering Technology degree as well as a certificate and next heads to UNC Charlotte’s College of Engineering. He said he ultimately wants to have his own consulting firm specializing in electrical engineering.

Campbell started taking classes at FTCC when he was a student at Jack Britt High School.

After graduating from Jack Britt in 2021, Campbell decided to continue at FTCC for his associate degree before transferring to a four-year university. Campbell said FTCC provided him with flexibility, familiarity and the classes that he needed. Also, it was affordable – less than half the cost of what he’d have paid for the same courses at UNC Charlotte.

“The price was right,” Campbell said.