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5 things you need to know about Propel NC

Editor’s Note: This is a press release by the N.C. Community College System.

In a decisive move that’s exciting business leaders and educators across North Carolina and the country, the North Carolina Community College System has unveiled its visionary new funding model, Propel NC. This groundbreaking initiative, set to revolutionize the way community colleges operate, comes after months of deliberation and anticipation. 

Here’s what you need to know about Propel NC: 

1) Prioritizes connecting students to high-demand, high-wage jobs 

North Carolina is the No. 1 State for Business and is projected to have more than 576,000 annual job openings by 2031. That means North Carolina needs more skilled workers to fill positions that are in high demand. Propel NC proposes investing more funding into programs that produce workers for high-demand, high-wage workforce sectors like advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, information technology, and healthcare. Additional funding will allow community colleges to increase their capacity to serve more students in these areas, ensuring qualified instructors drive student completion to fill impactful jobs. 

2) Targets investment in programs tied to workforce demand 

The new business model will directly align program funding to North Carolina’s most urgent workforce needs. Funding from legislature to the community colleges will be based on outcomes that drive economic growth and meet employer demands across the state. The new model leverages labor-market data to drive strategic investment. Propel NC will improve colleges’ flexibility to align credentials with workforce needs.  

3) Makes education easier for students 

Propel NC streamlines community college offerings by emphasizing short-term credentials and moves away from distinguishing between curriculum and continuing education courses, which can be challenging to understand. The new model prioritizes getting students the workforce credentials needed sooner to increase students opportunities for completion and family-sustaining careers. 

4) Educates North Carolinians for North Carolina jobs 

Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be available in the coming years and North Carolinians need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities. As the workforce development arm of North Carolina, the System provides local training in all 100 counties through its network of campuses and those graduates are likely to stay in their communities. Almost all community college students in the state are North Carolinians (98 percent) and nearly 80 percent of students stay and work in the communities where they learn. On top of that, more than half of our students are adult learners, meaning they’re 25 years old and up. Our communities can take immediate advantage of career-aligned programs and job openings with their names on them. 

5) Aligns business model to strategic prioritizes 

Propel NC supports other statewide strategic initiatives, including the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technology platform, strong support for collaboration and partnerships, short-term training opportunities, and bolstering rural colleges. Propel NC expands access to higher education and workforce credentials that support, grow and sustain new and existing business and industry. In addition to targeted funding for high-demand, high-wage programs, Propel NC also provides more base funding to better support students and ensure more complete their programs. 

‘Really innovative’ 

Leaders in higher education are taking notice of Propel NC and weighing in, including Dr. Karen Stout, President and CEO of Achieving the Dream. 

“I don’t see a lot of funding formulas doing this really innovative grouping of credit and noncredit. I expect to see colleges create comprehensive workforce development pathways, which will transform them into career-matching organizations,” Stout said.  

Dr. Dale McInnis, president of Richmond Community College, says Propel NC will ensure North Carolina community colleges stay relevant. 

“It will force us and incentivize us to listen to our employers, to have those thoughtful conversations, ‘Will a certificate and an intensive, cohort-based 16-week class satisfy your requirements if this content is delivered?’ McInnis said. “If we don’t change and adapt and modernize, how are we going to stay relevant?” 

Propel NC will now be considered by the North Carolina General Assembly in the short legislative session this spring. 

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EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.