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You don’t know what you don’t know

I am so proud of my N.C. State degree. I think I got a great education, and I know I had a great time. But, like we all say, “If I only knew then what I know now.”

My name is Matt Smith, and I work for the Wake Tech Foundation. In the brief time that I have worked at this amazing place, I have been delighted by what I have learned. Wake Tech Community College (WTCC) is the largest college OR university in the state. We have 73,000 students — let that sink in.

One out of every 10 Wake County residents attends Wake Tech.

For the purposes of this post, let’s talk about the students you probably know the most about — the ones who are at Wake Tech to obtain an Associate’s Degree.

These students (with an average age of 29) come to us from varied backgrounds. Some are the 25 percent of Wake County high schoolers who come here after graduation. Some are professionals who went to work straight out of high school. Some are students who have already attended Wake Tech and received a certificate or a diploma (all of our programs are “stackable” – in other words, everything can help you get that degree.)

I am so proud to tell you that anyone can get into Wake Tech. This is a college built on access, not exclusion. But be clear on this point — to graduate, you must complete the work, and it is rigorous. I know that our programs help prepare students for their next step — be it work or continuing to a four-year university.

You might be surprised to learn that we have collected data that shows that once a WTCC student moves to a UNC System School (all that we can track), they have a better GPA than the native population after one year on campus. And guess what, they knocked two years out at about $3,500 per year. Yes – you read that right: They just saved themselves (or their parents) $50,000, and they have better grades.

How does this happen?  Well, I have my theories. We have faculty that love what they do, and their only responsibility is teaching. No research. No publishing. They teach.

Additionally, we have invested heavily in building systems that evaluate and support student success. We aren’t here to weed out. We are here to promote growth. If you are on one of our nine campuses across the county, you are going to have committed professionals teaching and supporting you. Or, if you are one of our 20,000+ online students (did I mention that Wake Tech was recently named the number one online college in the country?), you are going to have advanced technology and teaching aids to help you focus and achieve.

Friends, this is your community college, and you should be proud of it. This is a special place. A school that welcomes all — from the high school valedictorian, to the new immigrant, to the veteran, to the single mother working the late shift. We are here to change lives. Be proud of this amazing community asset, and be our advocate.

Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the executive director of the Wake Tech Foundation. He grew up in Raleigh and made the big move to Apex 20 years ago. When he is not shuttling his kids to swim practice he enjoys golf, a clean car and anything Wolfpack related.