Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Awake58: An interview with Governor Cooper

This is a copy of the Awake58 newsletter originally sent on Monday, December 10, 2018. Click here to subscribe. 

An interview with Governor Cooper

Governor Roy Cooper answered some questions from us around the Finish Line  grant program… This week, we have a special deep dive on the Residency Determination System. Check back each day for more… Dr. Rachel Desmarais is the next president of Vance-Granville Community College…

Welcome to Awake58! I really appreciate you spending time with us each week and welcoming us to your inbox. We’ll have two more newsletters this year and then we are going to take a holiday break. As always, I would love to know how you think we are doing, and how we might improve. And if by chance you were forwarded this email, please subscribe!

This week, Governor Roy Cooper answered a few questions from us regarding the status of the Finish Line grant program. One relevant point is the program has made several shifts they hope will increase both accessibility and impact for the program. You will find those details and the Governor’s answers below.

Several weeks ago, we asked you what you thought of the Residency Determination Service (RDS). Nothing before or since has generated so much feedback, which led us the decision to dedicate a portion of this week to exploring RDS. The series will look at  student and staff experiences with the system, a background on why RDS exists in the first place, a look at the proposed changes, and more.

You can also expect a piece from Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton where he will discuss his own views of the system. Dalton writes, “The state is spending millions on RDS currently, and it is a solution looking for a problem. That money could be used to better promote the opportunities that exist at our community colleges.”

We encourage you to stop in to beginning tomorrow  to learn more about the issue. I want to know what you think of our coverage and if we’ve missed anything.

Best regards,



EdNC reads

Dr. Rachel Desmarais chosen as next president of VGCC

“Dr. Rachel M. Desmarais has been chosen as the next president of Vance-Granville Community College. With the final approval of the appointment by the State Board of Community Colleges on Dec. 18, she becomes the seventh president in the 49-year history of the college.”

Johnston Community College faces the future with confidence

Robert Kinlaw visited Johnston Community College and opens his latest piece with a nod to the future: “Many people insist robots are coming to take our jobs. Some studies suggest artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it destroys… No one knows exactly what the future will bring, but we can all agree on something: the field of automation is growing, and it’s growing fast. If anyone has job security, it will be those directly responsible for programming and automating the robots that will change our lives. Imagine my surprise when the first group of students I saw at Johnston Community College was doing just that.”

Life after Hurricane Florence in the eyes of James Sprunt student Ginger Jenkins

After the media left, real life remained for Ginger Jenkins. This portion of her story brought a tear to my eye: “‘We want to be thankful for what we have, for what we lost, and for where we are going to be,’ said Ginger. ‘We’re all together and we are safe … our new home is a much smaller house, but we’re thankful that we have a place to stay and a place to call home.’”


What we’re reading

The Talent Quotient

Quartz takes a look at how companies are finding, developing, and keeping talent. I think you will find several interesting pieces in the series. I am curious to know more about how different colleges are working with local employers on customized training and soft skill development.

Aligning for Student Success

The Education Strategy Group, American Association of Community Colleges, and the Association of Community College Trustees have taken a look at the ways in which community colleges are partnering with K-12 systems to improve and accelerate academic transitions. Take a look and let us know what is going on in your local area.

All for NC Fellowship

If you know of a talented student who wishes to spark social impact, I would encourage them to apply for the All For NC Fellowship from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation announced this week.

Reconnect Rural and Urban

Our colleagues at the Institute for Emerging Issues also put out a call for communities this week to join their Reconnect Rural and Urban effort. The call states, “IEI is now accepting applications from NC ‘communities’ that are actively working on successful efforts to address shared challenges or promote and more effectively leverage interconnections between different community types (i.e., rural, suburban, and urban). ‘Interconnections’ may include shared governmental or nonprofit services (economic development, water, education, transit, other), articulated workforce training systems, joint planning efforts or other partnerships.”  If your community fits the bill, apply!


Three questions with Governor Roy Cooper

Earlier this year we covered the launch of the Finish Line grant program in North Carolina. When the program was announced the following details were shared: “The Finish Line Grants program will use up to $7 million in federal funds to help students pay for items like course materials, housing, medical needs, child care, or unexpected financial emergencies. Cooper said he plans for the scholarships to go out within 72 hours of the eligible application so that students who might otherwise have to drop out can stay in school.”

“‘A car repair should not determine your future,’ he said.”

We checked in with Governor Cooper this week regarding the status of the program, including a number of changes they hope will lead to more students participating.

Nation: Governor Cooper, could you share a little more regarding the purpose of Finish Line Grants?

Governor Cooper: Far too many students have challenges other than academic reasons for not finishing school. A car repair should not keep someone from graduating, but it can. The Finish Line Grants program helps community college students who face unexpected financial emergencies by giving grants of up to $1,000 per semester, so students can finish their training and get a good-paying job.

Nation: Would you provide an update on any changes to the Finish Line Grant process?

Governor Cooper: Since we launched Finish Line Grants over the summer, we have seen the need for help across our state, particularly in areas hit by Hurricane Florence. That’s why we’re expanding eligibility to allow more students to get that help. Now, students only need to have completed 50% of their training instead of 75%.  We also know students of all levels of academic achievement need help, so we’re capping the maximum GPA required at 2.0.

Nation: What else should people know about Finish Line Grants?

Governor Cooper: The Finish Line Grants program is built on local partnerships between community colleges and workforce development boards. The program will be successful only if these partners work together to implement and promote the program. We need both colleges and boards to get the word out in many different ways to be sure all students are aware of the Finish Line Grant opportunity.  If students don’t know help is available, they may not ask.

I know the professionals on the front lines at both community colleges and NCWorks Career Centers are constantly asked to do more with less, and I appreciate every effort to help our students enter the workforce. I am grateful for everything they do to make North Carolina job ready.

For more information on the Finish Line Grants program, please visit


EducationNC ( works to expand educational opportunities for all children in North Carolina, and increase their academic attainment. We believe a more informed, connected, and engaged North Carolina is a better North Carolina. Our work takes many forms including storytelling, research, data, and community engagement. Thank you so much for joining us in the conversation around our students, our state, and our future. If you wish to donate to support our work, please do so by clicking here.


Your voice is needed

Do you have a story to share about a bright spot in your local community? We need your voice to tell the stories of our state’s 58 community colleges. We are now accepting first-person perspectives from anyone who wants to lift up their voice.

To learn more about submitting an article, click here. If you respond to this email, I am happy to help you think about how to frame your perspective and story.
Recent perspectives include a look at how welding can build a secure and stable future for students and an additional story from the recent trip to Mexico a number of community college leaders attended.


Do you want more EdNC in your inbox? 

Did you know EdNC provides news coverage and research across the entire educational continuum. Sign-up for our other newsletters and become more informed about North Carolina and beyond. Our goal is to engage and connect you to your state.

We send a daily email out with all of the essential education news you need. Sign-up for the Daily Digest to receive it each morning.

We are launching a newsletter focused on high school and community college sports across North Carolina. Join GameTimeNC today.

For a weekly digest of education news across North Carolina, subscribe to EducationNC’s Weekly Wrapup.

Your voice matters. Weigh in on weekly conversations about policy issues in North Carolina by joining Reach NC Voices.

Interested in policy research, trends, and analysis? You might like the Center’s weekly policy email, Friday@Five. You can subscribe here.

Would you like updates on STEM education in North Carolina? Subscribe to our monthly STEM newsletter, EdNC STEM.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.