Three North Carolina community colleges have joined forces with Elizabeth City State University to educate the next generation of aviators.
ECSU officials have signed agreements with officials from Guilford Technical Community College, Lenoir Community College and Sandhills Community College. The agreement with the colleges will bring community college transfer students to ECSU’s aviation science program in Elizabeth City. ECSU is the only four-year university in North Carolina offering a bachelor’s degree in aviation science. The university currently operates a 10-fleet airplane flight program and, in fall 2019, will launch a bachelor's degree program in unmanned aerial systems, or drones.
The three community colleges currently offer aviation programs, and school officials say they have not been able to transfer students to a public North Carolina university to advance their aviation degree work until now.
Dr. Rusty Hunt, president of Lenoir CC, said his program has been in operation for 49 years, educating students in aviation management and flight instruction. “But what we have not had in the past is the ability to partner with a North Carolina four-year program,” he said. “We have had to send students elsewhere.”
Nicholas Yale, the aviation director at Guilford Tech, said this agreement is providing a “pathway that wasn’t there before.” He noted that students who wish to move up the aviation career ladder require a bachelor's degree, and this agreement will give them that opportunity. “This is a historic event,” Yale said. “It is key to the development of the industry and of the students.”
Currently, the aviation industry is experiencing a shortage of pilots and more pilots are due to retire over the next decade, making aviation one of the fastest-growing career fields in the country. Drone technology offers more than 400 areas for career advancement, including agriculture, homeland security and emergency management, said Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, director of the ECSU Aviation Science Program.
Community college students who earn an Associate in Applied Science degree can transfer to ECSU to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Science degree. These students can minor in flight education, aviation management, air traffic control or avionics.
“Thank you for what you’ll be doing for our students in the years to come,” said Dr. Rebecca Roush, vice president of academic affairs at Sandhills Community College.