President of Blue Ridge Community College Dr. Laura Leatherwood and President of Wingate University Dr. Rhett Brown sign papers finalizing a new opportunity for students.

New Partnership Creates Gateway to Wingate for Blue Ridge Community College Graduates

Featured Photo: Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College, and Dr. Rhett Brown, president of Wingate University, sign papers finalizing new opportunities for students. (Photo by: Benjamin Rickert. Download high resolution photos for media use.)

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FLAT ROCK, N.C. – Associate-degree graduates of Blue Ridge Community College can earn a bachelor’s at Wingate University for $2,500 per year or less, thanks to a new partnership between the two institutions. The Gateway Scholarship was announced today by Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. LaurDr. Leatherwood and Dr. Brown shake hands following the ceremony.a Leatherwood and Wingate University President Dr. Rhett Brown. The agreement also defined clear pathways toward four-year degrees in human services, criminal justice, business, education and psychology.

“As educators, our greatest desire is to provide opportunities for students to excel,” said Leatherwood. “This expanded relationship with Wingate University leverages the strengths of our institutions and creates pathways for students to reach their academic goals through our closely aligned programs. We are thrilled to work together to make higher education more accessible while strengthening North Carolina’s workforce.”

 “While this initiative is new, we’ve been partners in education since before 2016, when we became ‘next-floor’ neighbors in the Henderson County Health Sciences Center,” said Brown. “We couldn’t be more pleased to grow our relationship with Blue Ridge to make bachelor’s degrees more attainable for their graduates. Together, we can help students clear the hurdles that can slow them down – whether it’s the cost of higher education or worries that classes won’t transfer.”

Leatherwood and Brown said that the Gateway Scholarship will help the state close its educational-attainment gap. According to the nonprofit MyFutureNC, 67 percent of jobs across the state require a postsecondary degree or high-quality credential, but only 49 percent of North Carolinians ages 25 to 44 have that level of education. In Henderson County, 44 percent have a degree or credential, but just 26 percent hold a bachelor’s or higher. By comparison, 44 percent of those in neighboring Transylvania County have a degree or credential, while 29 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Data from Carolina Demography, a population-data organization based at UNC Chapel Hill,  shows that 54 percent of Henderson County high school students enroll in a postsecondary institution within a year after graduating, a percentage point lower than in their peer counties. But once enrolled, most Henderson County students persist to their second year (79 percent versus 77 percent), resulting in a six-year graduation rate that is three percentage points higher than that of peer counties. In Transylvania County, 50 percent of high school students enroll in a postsecondary institution within a year of graduation, a figure comparable to peer counties.

Blue Ridge and Wingate attendees applaud as Dr. Leatherwood and Dr. Brown shake hands.

“We know that western North Carolinians value education and appreciate the opportunities already afforded them at Blue Ridge Community College. Demographics show that 20 percent of Henderson County adults have some college, and that’s above the suburban county average,” Brown said. “Whether they are just graduating from high school or coming back to school as a working adult, Blue Ridge can help them finish their associate degree, which is all they need to qualify for the scholarship to Wingate.”

The Gateway Scholarship can be applied to traditional in-person classes at Wingate or to the University’s bachelor of liberal studies online program. To help Gateway scholars stay on track, Wingate and Blue Ridge Community College will offer collaborative academic advising, financial aid counseling and career counseling.

“Our state needs 2 million people with postsecondary degrees or certificates by 2030. The goal for Henderson County, according to MyFutureNC, is nearly 18,000. We believe the Gateway Scholarship is part of the solution,” Brown said. “We look forward to opening the door for more western North Carolina students to build on the success they’ve achieved at Blue Ridge.”

For many years, Blue Ridge students in Transylvania and Henderson counties have transferred credits toward the core requirements of Wingate programs according to North Carolina’s Independent Comprehensive Articulation Agreement. The new agreement expands this relationship by more closely defining specific transfer pathways to several Wingate four-year degrees.

“The path to a more educated workforce can only be navigated by locking arms with forward-thinking partners like Wingate,” added Leatherwood. “We must continually work to increase flexibility and remove obstacles for our students; this is the work we have done together today.”

The presidents also signed an agreement between Blue Ridge Community College and Wingate’s School of Pharmacy by which the University agreed to save up to 10 enrollment spots each academic year for qualified Blue Ridge students with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0. Blue Ridge students headed toward Wingate’s School of Pharmacy will be able to participate in the University’s Pre-Pharmacy Club and get support from Wingate’s director of health professions pathways.

Funding to help bring students’ out-of-pocket annual tuition costs at Wingate down to $2,500 or less includes federal aid, the North Carolina Need-Based Scholarship and support from generous donors.

To learn more about the Gateway Scholarship, email Valerie Graham at, or call 704-233-8103. To learn more about Blue Ridge Community College, visit  

About Blue Ridge Community College

About Blue Ridge Community College: Blue Ridge Community College is a two-year, post-secondary institution that elevates the educational experience to prepare students for 21st-century success in the workplace or at four-year colleges and universities. Providing real-life, affordable, and accessible education, the College offers more than 200 degrees, diplomas, and certificates; convenient online courses; and fast-tracked job training. Our Mission: Blue Ridge Community College empowers individuals with knowledge and skills to enrich our communities and build a competitive workforce. Learn more at:

About Wingate University

Founded in 1896, Wingate University is a laboratory of difference-making that serves more than 3,400 students in North Carolina. Wingate offers 37 undergraduate majors as well as eight master’s and five doctoral degrees. The University is home to the Cannon College of Arts and Sciences; the Levine College of Health Sciences; the Byrum School of Business; the Thayer School of Education and the School of Sport Sciences. The University’s motto is “Faith, Knowledge, Service.” Learn more at