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Community colleges offer 'a great path forward.'

A note from Nation

Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58! If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

Cleveland CC president Jason Hurst joined our Awake58 podcast… We look at three counties in eastern NC who are experimenting with solutions to broadband challenges… Strada Education is projecting a surge of adult learners over the next two years… President Biden’s American Jobs Act could include billions of dollars in community college infrastructure investment…

Spring feels like it has finally arrived in North Carolina — and I could not be more grateful. I hope that all of you had a restful weekend enjoying the weather. As vaccinations ramp up across the state, it is hard not to feel more hopeful that we have begun to turn the page to a new chapter for us all.

Cleveland Community College president Jason Hurst, the 2021 North Carolina Community College President of the Year, sat down with EdNC’s Emily Thomas recently to discuss his own hopes for the coming years. This quote will likely resonate with many of you:

“I think daily we struggle to change the image of community college and what that means to moms and dads and high school students – and that is not less than. It’s a great path forward – whether you want to move on to a university or move directly into the workforce.”

Click here to give the whole podcast a listen!

We’ve been covering broadband and digital access issues since before the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 elevated the statewide conversation about the importance of broadband to communities across the state. My colleague Michael Taffe has a story out now that places the problem — and some solutions — in context. The beginning of his story lays out the scale of the challenge concisely:

In North Carolina, 85.3% of households have a broadband internet subscription at threshold speeds of 25 Mbps, according to 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates. But as classes moved online last spring, students in the state’s remaining 583,000 homes were left looking for a solution.

I would recommend reading the piece today to understand how Chowan, Hyde, and New Hanover Counties are each experimenting to tackle the problem on behalf of their citizens.

We typically focus on EdNC.org’s community college content in this email, but I did want to take a moment to lift up my colleague Rupen Fofaria’s series on the Winton Triangle and the C.S. Brown School. Many of you probably haven’t traveled the streets of the small towns of Winton, Cofield, and Ahoskie, but Rupen does a remarkable job lifting up the history of the community. His first piece begins with a look back at the 1700’s in the Winton Triangle:

It isn’t at all surprising that centuries ago, people of color in a rural, northeastern North Carolina community picked cotton and grew tobacco. What is surprising is that these free families of color owned the farms where they picked the cotton. They owned the land where they grew the tobacco. They owned the businesses that sold goods and traded with white people in the area.

And amazingly, it happened in the 1700s, before either the Civil War or the American Revolution.

You will want to read this series. Rupen’s profile on Bobbie Jones, the second piece in the series, just published as well. Give it a read and let us know what you think!

Thank you for reading this week! We’ll be back in your inboxes again next Tuesday.

See you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth — EdNC.org


EdNC reads

Listen | Jason Hurst, 2021 NC Community College President of the Year

Cleveland Community College president Jason Hurst was named the 2021 Community College President of the Year by the State Board of Community Colleges — and he recently sat down with our own Emily Thomas to discuss his experience leading Cleveland CC through the pandemic. He even weighed in on the Cleveland mascot — the Yeti.

Give the podcast a listen by clicking here.

Are you subscribed to our Awake58 podcast? We’re interviewing community college leaders, faculty, and students and lifting up their stories. You can find the show on AppleSpotifyAnchor, and anywhere else podcasts are available. Make sure to subscribe today to join us!

If you subscribe on Apple, we would appreciate your rating and review. Thank you for helping us tell the story of colleges from across the state.

Click here to listen

Unique problems, unique solutions for broadband access in Eastern N.C.

Broadband challenges are common in communities across the country as the pandemic illustrated.

Ray Zeisz, director of the Technology Infrastructure Lab at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, spoke with Michael Taffe as part of his story on the challenges. Zeisz laid out why North Carolina has particular challenges around broadband access:

“When you look at a state like Utah, the populations are really clumped together, and then you have a long stretch of desert with no one. In North Carolina, every 10 miles you drive there’s a little town. So we have this weird population density problem in North Carolina where we can hit a lot of the people pretty easy, but the ones that we can’t hit are out there in between the two towns. They have a completely different model for their ‘ruralness’ than we do.”

Michael’s piece goes on to explore possible solutions ranging from SpaceX’s Starlink satellite service being deployed on Ocracoke to grant-based incentives for private businesses to expanded Wi-Fi availability at neighborhood centers in New Hanover County. Give it a read by clicking below. We’re going to continue to cover the issue in the years ahead, so please lift up other solutions if you hear of them!

Click here for the story

Alli Lindenberg on our team provides you with podcast recommendations below:

The Awake58 Podcast – A conversation with Pamela Senegal of Piedmont Community College

In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Pamela Senegal, president of Piedmont Community College. The conversation spans a range of topics including the digital divide and access to broadband, issues driving this year’s legislative session as it relates to community colleges, and how new nursing board requirements may impact smaller communities. Overall, this episode focuses on what role rural community colleges will play in their communities moving forward.

First in Future – Harold L. Martin Sr. – Chancellor of NC A&T

The Institute for Emerging Issues, in a four-part series, will be focusing on the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities – a group of 10 colleges and universities formed to ensure that African Americans had access to higher education. This episode is with Dr. Harold L. Martin Sr., Chancellor of NC A&T State University.

The Key – Making Room for Adult Students

This week’s episode of The Key assesses the state of adult students in higher education, why they sometimes struggle at traditional colleges and universities, and what institutions can do to serve them better.


Around NC

When the legislature is in session, we publish a weekly look at everything that happened on Jones Street. One big news item last week is a new push to change how reading is taught in North Carolina. If you are curious about this policy proposal, click here for the write-up.

The Bladen Journal featured a write-up of the Bladen Community College’s Board of Trustees meeting where president Amanda Lee gave an update on the budget, federal funds, and more. Lee noted, “We are being very careful with our spending and our commitments. While we are in a sound financial place right now, we are cautious about the future.”

The Lenoir News-Topic published an article on Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute’s efforts to bolster cybersecurity. CCC&TI’s Susan Wooten told the paper, “Our biggest defense is educating our users. These attacks have become so sophisticated over the years, and seeing how these criminals evolve is incredible. It’s impossible to stay ahead of them.”

Central Piedmont Community College and Bank of America recently hosted Dr. Tim Renick, executive director of Georgia State University’s National Institute for Student Success, to share how his institution approached closing racial equity gaps.

Durham Tech just announced their new Guided Career Pathways approach. According to a release from the college, “Guided Career Pathways provide structured choices, built-in and revamped advising support, and clear learning outcomes. Pathways are designed to assist students in making straightforward and informed decisions when selecting a credit or non-credit program and as a part of students’ career goals.”

James Sprunt CC president Jay Carraway wrote a piece for the Duplin Times noting the college had the highest growth of any of the 58 community colleges.

Mayland Community College president John Boyd shared updates on the institution with local leaders recently, noting both opportunities and challenges ahead. The college remains focused on completing several pillars of their strategic plan, including playing a role in bringing an events center and boutique hotel to the region.

Pitt Community College recently celebrated their 60th birthday with a week-long celebration.

While the oft-discussed surge of community college enrollees from four-year institutions did not materialize this year, Surry Community College shared the story of two students who did choose to spend their COVID year at the college.

Wilkes Community College just announced the WCC Education Promise — a “last dollar” scholarship program. “Last dollar means the scholarship will cover the full cost of tuition and fees, which equates to a little over $2,500 per year, after students complete the FAFSA and get whatever federal and state aid they can get and use a New Century Scholars scholarship, if they have one,” declared Wilkes CC president Jeff Cox to the local press.


Other higher education reads

Up First from NPR looks at community college enrollment

NPR’s Up First talks community college enrollment through the prism of national numbers. As you all may remember, we published a deep dive on North Carolina’s enrollment trends that you may read here.

Adult learners seem poised to return to college

Community College Daily has a write-up on the potential return of adult learners to community colleges:

Despite enrollment declines, more than 20 million adults intend to enroll in community or technical colleges in the next two years, according to Strada Education Network.

An estimated 20.5 million working-age adults ages 25 to 64 say they intend to enroll in community or technical college in the next two years, according to national data from Strada’s Education Consumer Survey.

The data comes with a report from Strada that makes the case for policymakers to invest in community colleges ahead of the potential surge.

President Biden calls for $12B investment in community college infrastructure

President Biden’s recently proposed American Jobs Act would include a significant infusion of money for community colleges if it passes. Per Higher Ed Dive: “The president is asking Congress to allocate $12 billion to states to invest in existing physical and technology infrastructure and to improve access to community college in areas with few or no postsecondary options.”

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.