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Awake58: Welcome to Awake58

This is a copy of the Awake58 newsletter originally sent on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.  Click here to subscribe.

Welcome to Awake58!

Hello. Welcome to Awake58, the new weekly newsletter focused on the 58 community colleges across North Carolina. In this edition, you will be able to read three quick questions with President Peter Hans and explore community colleges’ role in economic mobility.

Thank you for waking up with us and welcome to something new.

My name is Nation Hahn, and I work with I am proud to work alongside our entire team to report, provide research and analysis, and engage in a conversation with all of you about the future of our community colleges and state. This newsletter is an attempt to lift up those stories, share important research from around our state and country, and spark a dialogue. At the core, this newsletter is about all of you.

In 2015, EdNC began to report, research, provide analysis, and lift up the bright spots of K-12 education in North Carolina. We did so with the intent to always cover the entire continuum of education. Our first expansion led us to cover early childhood education. Our most recent expansion has led us to this moment. This spring, the John M Belk Endowment invested in our work, which allows us to provide a deep look at our community college system, our evolving labor markets, and other issues that matter deeply to the future of our state.

Our entire state must pay attention to the continuum from birth to retirement as longer lifespans and increasing automation will contribute to lengthier, more diverse careers that may require training and retraining throughout our lives. 

Over the next week-plus, we will be traveling to all 58 community colleges. Different team members will be visiting each school to meet students and staff, visit programs, and engage in conversation around the future of the community college system. We will all be tweeting and instagramming in real time, while also documenting our visits for a story, which will publish on You can follow along @awake58nc on Twitter@awake58 on Instagram, and by following the #awake58 hashtag. You can also text AWAKE to 73224 to join our texting club and follow along with us there.

If you work on a campus, we’d be glad to let you know the day we are visiting so we can say hello. Just drop us a line.

We couldn’t be more excited to spend the week traveling our beautiful state, and we look forward to meeting many, many wonderful people along the way. 

Moving forward, each week we hope you will wake up with us and spend a few minutes exploring what is going on in postsecondary education in our state and beyond. My hope is you find this email to be essential reading each week, but I know we must meet your needs in order for that to happen. Please feel free give me feedback by responding to this email, tweeting me @nationhahn, or texting NATION to 73224.

EdNC Picks

A Graduation for One

President David Shockley of Surry Community College tells us about the extraordinary effort one student put forward to graduate.

Wake Tech Finish First Focuses on Completion

Alex Granados visited the Finish First program at Wake Tech to learn how they are using data to get students to completion: “Wake Tech has been online with Finish First since last fall, and the results have been spectacular, almost doubling the number of students receiving some type of award. If a similar system were spread statewide, the results could be mind-boggling.”

Articles worth your time

Higher Ed Solutions for Rural Students

Anne Kim takes a look at efforts in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, to establish rural higher education centers. Read more

Colleges Are No Match for American Poverty

Despite the bleak title, this article from a few months ago is worth your time as we consider how community colleges serve low-income students. They spotlight the innovative efforts of Amarillo College to accommodate low-income students. Read more

Students are dropping out of college before even starting. Here’s how educators are trying to stop the trend.

Nick Anderson explores how colleges are addressing “summer melt,” or the students who apply to college, are accepted, but then never show up on campus. Read more

Three quick questions with Peter Hans

Each week we will pose three quick questions to a different person involved in the community college space. The goal is to quickly get a pulse on what is going on in the community college world. For our first edition, President Peter Hans will kick things off.

1. What are some facts you have learned during your tenure you believe the general public should know?

President Hans: “People are almost always shocked to learn our community colleges enroll more than 700,000 students every year. Our locations are within a thirty minute drive of 95% of the state’s population. That’s scale, depth, and impact!”

2. Has anything surprised you to date during your tenure?

President Hans: “I am amazed at the dedication of the faculty and staff to our students. Many of our students are of modest means and often from first generation college-going families. They need those supportive advisors and advocates!”

3. What roles do you foresee our community colleges playing in 2050?

President Hans: “Community colleges will be more relevant than ever in 2050. With permanent disruptions in the economy, technology, and society, it is likely that education will be shorter in duration but occur more often throughout a person’s lifetime. We will be there for them!”

Issue: Economic mobility

As we prepared to launch our work around community colleges last fall, we met with various leaders across the state. Many of them told me they were dedicated to working in this space because of a belief that community colleges remained a key force in providing pathways to a better life and economic mobility.

American Public Media Reports just released a powerful piece entitled, “Changing Class. Are colleges helping Americans move up?”

The following paragraph in particular caught my eye:

The chances an American child will earn more than his or her parents has been declining: Children born in the 1940s had a 90 percent chance of surpassing their parents; kids born in 1980 had only a 50 percent chance of doing better. It’s now more difficult to break out of the class you’re born into. Children of well-to-do families are likely to stay that way, and children of poor families are likely to stay poor.

The article goes on share findings from Raj Chetty and John Friendman’s work with the Equality of Opportunity Project. This statement stood out:

“So what we find in the data is that the students from poorer backgrounds who attend elite schools do essentially as well as students that attend those same schools from much, much richer backgrounds,” Friedman said. “That is despite the very strong dependency in this country of kids’ outcomes to parents’ incomes in general. That almost entirely disappears once you look at students at an individual college.”

I couldn’t help but consider the role all postsecondary institutions across North Carolina play in generating economic mobility and creating opportunity and how our state might do better for all of our students. Please check out this tool from the Upshot which allows you to track economic mobility for different universities and two-year colleges

What role do you believe community colleges play in boosting mobility for their students and community?

Do you have a story to share? Reply directly to this email.

By the numbers

1 in 9 citizens

An estimated 735,000 students enrolled at one of the 58 community colleges during the 2014-15 academic year. This accounts for 1 in 9 NC citizens 18 and older.

40% of wage earners

40% of wage earners attended a NC community college in the past 10 years.

$2.30 to the dollar

Students receive an average of $2.30 in higher future income for every $1 they spend on education at a community college.

11.8% of two-year students

NC community colleges account for 11.8% of US students in public two-year colleges.

91 years of two-year colleges

Buncombe Junior College was the first two-year college to open its doors in North Carolina in 1927. Another two-year school did not open until 20 years later in 1947. The school offered free vocational classes and college transfer courses.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.