There’s a simple reason UNC Asheville has been named a “best value” by so many rankings groups. We believe the value of an education is determined the learning opportunities given to each student — not by the expense of their tuition costs or size of their loans. UNC Asheville students enjoy a perfect mix of private-university atmosphere and state-school costs.
Giovanni Figaro knows how to account for his studies.
“From learning about the causes of what some are calling the Great Recession in Macroeconomics, to discussing the deep and complex wisdom of Lao Tzu in Humanities, to learning the foreign language of Finance, I have really enjoyed the diverse yet comprehensive learning experience at UNC Asheville,” said Figaro.
The accounting major’s experience includes Honors classes and substantial financial support through the Laurels Scholars program—UNC Asheville’s largest scholarship, which is awarded to the most academically high-achieving freshmen.
"Generous donors have afforded me the opportunity to be creative with my studies and my extracurricular time." - Giovanni Figaro
The Asheville native spends that time balancing the books and tutoring students at his high school. The financial support means he can concentrate on his academics, giving back to the community and preparing for his career.
“When I graduate in 2015, I think I’ll be able to handle any situation,” he says. “I’ll be able to crunch the numbers, but I’ll also be able to communicate the value of what I’ve learned.”
When Jennifer Schuller Forsyth ’90 transferred to UNC Asheville, she didn’t know what to expect, even though she grew up less than half an hour away in Hendersonville.
"I was blown away by the experience. The student-teacher ratio is fantastic. I got to know the professors. They got to know me. I got to do things that frankly I didn’t think I could do." - Jennifer Forsyth
Her history major included undergraduate research of resistance movements during World War II, a topic that prompted her application and acceptance for a Fulbright Fellowship. By the time she came back from Germany, she had a completely different worldview and a new plan to pursue a master’s degree in journalism.
“When I had the Fulbright and when I was at Columbia [for my master’s degree], I found myself in rooms with people who had undergraduate degrees from Yale, Princeton, Oberlin – prestigious universities with prestigious degrees,” she said. “There were often people in the room who had paid much more for their university education than I had, but there was almost never someone in the room with a better education than I had.”
She credits that unique education to the professors and classmates who defined her time on campus. The faculty knew when students hadn’t read an assignment, and they expected them to, which is why Forsyth and her roommate decided to practically memorize all of Dante’s Inferno for one of their humanities courses.
She carries that determination, along with an air popcorn popper, into her work now as United States Editor for The Wall Street Journal. The nostalgic item quickly diffuses stress over stories and deadlines in the newsroom, and brings to mind the small groups and camaraderie at UNC Asheville. She counts it as one of her many fond memories.
“The intimacy here and the small class size are the things that I think allows UNC Asheville to offer students a private school education at a public school price, and that is such a thing to be cherished and defended.”
Average would not be a word used to describe the Mathematics Department at UNC Asheville. Faculty members teach across disciplines with courses in humanities, history, environmental studies, religious studies, the MLA Program and the honors program. Each year, several students go on to graduate programs in mathematics. Many students also choose other career paths, including culinary schools, divinity schools and graduate degrees in economics, psychology, computer science and engineering. And in 2013, the program graduated the highest percentage of math majors in the UNC system.
I am really excited about my undergraduate research on Pythagorean sequences with my advisor Dr. Bahls. Hamel said. It is dealing with number theory which is the subject I would like to specialize in when going to graduate school." - Georgia Mason
The department also has a new number to study, a $100,000 gift in honor of Jane Oliver Swafford, a nationally recognized math educator, who lives in Hendersonville. Half of the $100,000 gift will go toward department programing, specifically for continuing the community Math Summit, offering additional public lectures, such as the popular Pi vs. e Debate, and sending students to regional and national conferences. The remaining $50,000 will establish an endowed scholarship for mathematics majors. Seniors Zoe Hamel from Sedan, France, and Georgia Mason from Richmond, V.T., have received the first awards for the fall semester.
“The scholarship is helping me pay for tuition, which is extra useful since I am an out-of-state student,” said Mason, who is taking three senior level-math classes and a special honors topics course called Evil Genius in the fall.
Hamel plans to use the funding to finish her degree, focus on undergraduate research and continue her success on the court. The women’s tennis player has earned the scholar-athlete award for the past two years.
“I am really excited about my undergraduate research on Pythagorean sequences with my advisor Dr. Bahls,” Hamel said. “It is dealing with number theory which is the subject I would like to specialize in when going to graduate school.”
Of course, the department’s numbers do not stop with commencement. They are looking toward the future of mathematics in Asheville, engaging middle schools and high schools along with national experts and making sure students have the financial and intellectual support they need.
Kelsey Cain's parents told her she could attend any college in the United States, as long as scholarship money could bring the cost down to what they'd saved for an in-state, public college education in North Carolina.
Cain, from Durham, visited 57 colleges during her high school career – some as large as 35,000 students and some as small as 800.
You're not going to find as much passion in the faculty and the involvement of the students anywhere else. That's the foundation of the price at UNC Asheville." - Kelsey Cain
A psychology major who is earning her teaching licensure, she added a Teaching Fellows Scholarship and The Hop Scholarship to her parents' savings to make the money last her entire four years. It helps that UNC Asheville's in-state tuition is already very affordable.
Today, she also understands the value of attending a smaller university comes from the flexibility she encounters across campus. Whether it's her classes or personal projects, Cain has always been given room to learn.
She hones her leadership skills in the Student Alumni Association she helped form. She's taken classes in Africana studies and is excited about an upcoming class on the influence of the Beatles. Recently, she broadened her horizons by teaching students in Ghana, and now she's off for a total-immersion, study abroad program in Costa Rica, where she'll teach English and learn Spanish.
By the time she finishes at UNC Asheville, Cain will have earned her degree, taught in two foreign countries and graduated without any debt. That's a strong starting point for any career.
The gulf between biology, theoretical mathematics and ice cream-making isn’t as wide as you’d think. In fact, Greg and Ashley Garrison have had plenty of success with all three. They involve a lot of creative thinking, applying new ideas to traditional approaches.
"The scholarship we offer isn't a ton of money, but when we see how appreciative the students are and how it's making their lives a little easier, you want to keep on giving." - Greg Garrison
Greg (a math major) and Ashley (a biologist) graduated UNC Asheville in 2005. Today, the couple co-owns The Hop, a homemade ice cream business shop near campus.
The Garrisons felt so grateful for the education they received at UNC Asheville that they created The Hop Scholarship – $2,000 worth of assistance for a deserving student's final four semesters at the university. The first award was made in fall 2011.
The Hop gets a lot of business from the university and its students. To return the love, Ashley created a luscious new flavor, Bulldog Tracks, whose sales fund the scholarship. The money can make all the difference for a student who needs a little help in paying tuition to attend one of the nation’s leading liberal arts public colleges. Together, Greg and Ashley have created a delicious way for students to get the same sweet education that UNC Asheville gave them.
Some of the most valuable experiences that a student can have at UNC Asheville are those that money can't buy.
Jeanie Peterson, '13, applied to six colleges, but even though the others offered scholarships, UNC Asheville was both the best deal and the only place she wanted to attend. She points out that she has many friends at other universities who are paying just as much as her for tuition, but they are sitting in 300-person lecture classes that are led by teaching assistants.
She also appreciates the attitude that exists within a smaller university. Peterson loves that UNC Asheville students open the doors for each other, will strike up conversations with strangers and can walk into a professor's office most any time. You can't put a price on that kind of openness.
You really are getting a private education at a public school cost. I know that sounds like marketing, but it's really true." - Jamie Peterson
Recently, Peterson started sharing that selfless UNC Asheville spirit with school-age children in the city. As an N.C. Teaching Fellow scholarship recipient, she started mentoring students at Asheville Middle School. A history major, Peterson found that she loves being around young students and plans to continue working with them.
She will be licensed to teach children in sixth through 12th grades. Peterson looks forward to opening a few doors for her students in the future, too, and she'll be able to start her career with less college debt than most of her friends.