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The FAFSA is here and news of a 'transformative' investment in health care workforce

A note from us

Nation here with the first Awake58 of 2024! If you missed the last newsletter of 2023, you may find it on our website. We included a look at a new in-depth report on the Surry-Yadkin Works apprenticeship model.

The new FAFSA dropped… Dr. Ken Ingle is the new president of Alamance Community College… Wilkes Community College’s presidential search is down to two… Pamlico Community College and Martin Community College have both named interim presidents… A $20 million dollar-plus investment was announced focusing on the health care workforce pipeline in New Hanover County… The N.C. Association of Community College Presidents endorsed the plan for the proposed new funding formula dubbed PropelNC…

Welcome to the first edition of Awake58 for the year. 2024 promises to be an interesting year in higher education. A short list of the issues we expect to be discussed this year include the debut of the new FAFSA, the roll-out of the new legislation regarding accreditation and the potential impacts on colleges going through the process, the evolution of the proposed new funding formula for community colleges, and the usual array of issues impacting individual colleges, including enrollment, community support, and leadership transitions.

If you have other ideas for what we should be covering in 2024, or if you have thoughts on the topics above, please reply directly to this email. We’ll feature a few of your replies next week.

The new Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) soft launched on Dec. 31 after several delays left advocates, colleges, and families waiting for the form. My colleague Mebane Rash has written a guide answering several key questions around the new form, including details on how the “soft launch” works for families, a list of the documents students will need to complete the form, and an overview of what is new with the form.

The State Board of Community Colleges met briefly on Dec. 15 to move several community college presidential searches along in their process. Alamance Community College officially hired Dr. Ken Ingle as their president. Ingle served as the former chief officer of information services at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. The Board also approved two semi-finalists for president of Wilkes Community CollegeMichael Rodgers and Carolyn Strickland. The full update on the Board meeting can be found in Laura’s article. We will continue to cover all of the leadership transitions in the months ahead.

As you may recall, I visited North Carolina’s 100 counties as part of the Extra Miles Tour. One dominant topic of conversation throughout the tour was the need for a strong workforce pipeline to meet the demand from the many employers moving into North Carolina as we continue our streak of being one of the top states to do business. The need for workforce seemed particularly acute in our health care system.

We just published a look at a landmark investment in the health care workforce from the New Hanover Community Endowment that includes more than $8 million for Cape Fear Community College.

Thank you for reading Awake58! We appreciate your continued support as we begin a new year together.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Chief of Growth,

EdNC reads

Dr. Ken Ingle named president of Alamance Community College

Several community colleges are in the midst of a presidential search. Dr. Ken Ingle is the new president for Alamance Community College. Ingle previously served as the chief officer of information services for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

Here are other personnel updates from Laura’s December State Board article:

The Board also approved Dr. Brian Busch, Martin Community College’s Executive Vice President, as Martin Community College‘s acting president starting Jan. 1, 2024 and Dr. Larry Keen, former president of Fayetteville Technical Community College, as interim president starting Feb. 1, 2024 following the retirement of Wesley Beddard. The Board approved both roles as Dr. Keen could not begin until Feb. 1 and the college needs a president by law.

Dr. Jim Ross is also retiring as the president of Pamlico Community College. The Board approved Michelle Krauss to take on the role of acting president.

The Board also approved two semi-finalists for president of Wilkes Community CollegeMichael Rodgers and Carolyn Strickland. Wilkes is searching for a new president after former president Dr. Jeff Cox became president of the North Carolina Community College System.

The State Board also received an update from system president Dr. Jeff Cox on the proposed funding formula:

The model, which was previewed at the Board’s Nov. 16 meeting, was unanimously approved by the North Carolina Association of Community College presidents at their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13. Cox called the new model “Propel NC.”

“After a lot of good back and forth with our presidents, questions, concerns, thought through and vetted, (I’m) really, really proud to see a unanimous vote of our presidents to endorse what I think is going to be a transformational new model,” Cox said. “Very innovative, aligning our funding model directly with the labor market and really putting us in a great place to meet the needs of business and industry and helping our citizens across the state earn credentials of value that will help them with their own economic mobility. So it’s a great step forward.”

We will be covering all of the developments regarding the new funding formula as they unfold.

'Transformative' investment in health care workforce announced in New Hanover County

In December, the New Hanover Community Endowment announced an investment of more than $23.2 million to bolster the health care workforce pipeline in New Hanover County. Novant Health also announced a $10 million commitment to increase the number of trained health care workers in the region.

The grant will fund four big focus areas, according to the press release:

  • Support for success: This involves the educational institutions providing wraparound services such as recruitment, enrollment resources, and retention structures to aid student success.

  • Enhanced infrastructure: The funding will also be used to upgrade facilities, implement holistic admissions processes, and strengthen recruitment resources.

  • Pathway programs: The development and expansion of “pathway and pipeline programs” to guide aspiring health care professionals.

  • Innovative learning: The institutions will collaborate on simulated learning, health care professional cohort programs, and standardized exam study assistance.

Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) is one of three educational institutions receiving support. CFCC will receive approximately $8.6 million over three years to increase capacity of their nursing programs and recruit and retain underrepresented populations. UNC-Wilmington and New Hanover County Schools will also receive significant grants.

State Board reviews post-pandemic recovery, approves three-year graduation pathway

We have received a lot of questions on the three-year high school graduation path written into the 2023 budget.

The State Board of Education met last week. The event included “unanimous approval of a temporary rule for three-year high school graduation policy,” according to the article that is now up on

As Laura’s article notes:

The General Assembly’s 2023 budget requires the Board to make a three-year high school graduation path accessible to students across the state. Students may apply with their public school unit to graduate early by completing a request form. Unless the student is emancipated or over the age of 18, the form must be signed by the student’s parent or guardian.

Here is an earlier article from Hannah on the pathway requirement.

What you need to know about the new FAFSA

What is new with the FAFSA? Mebane has a guide up now with an explanation of some of the key changes, an update on the process, and answers to some of your questions:

Federal Student Aid (FSA) soft launched the 2024–25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form Dec. 31, 2023 with some big changes for students, families, and counselors, according to this press release.

Students who plan to attend college between July 1, 2024 and June 30, 2025 need to complete the form. …

According to the press release, “The 2024–25 FAFSA form expands eligibility for federal student aid, including Pell Grants, and provides a streamlined user experience. 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds will be eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants due to updates to student aid calculations. Plus, applicants will be able to skip as many as 26 questions, depending on their individual circumstances. Some applicants could answer as few as 18 questions, which could take less than 10 minutes.”

You may find helpful tips and links to resources on now.

Around NC

APPLY NOW | Applications are now open for the John M. Belk Impact Fellowship. Interested students may apply here.

As we enter 2024, we have published a few recaps of the top content from last year. You will find our top features in this article. You will find some of our top news articles in this list.

Mebane has a look out at the issues that will help define the K-12 landscape in 2024, including key events to monitor. As for the role of EdNC, Mebane sums it up well:

The EdNC team is uniquely positioned to document the impact of the expansion of school choice on all 115 school districts, all 58 community colleges, and all 100 counties in 2024 and beyond.

We believe there is power in being able to tell the story and collectively writing the history of what is happening to in our schools and communities from Murphy to Manteo. Thank you for being part of EdNC’s architecture of participation. 2024 will matter.

According to a statement from the system office: “The North Carolina Community College System, in partnership with the University of North Carolina System, has initiated a Request for Information (RFI) from accrediting agencies.”

Beaufort County Community College is one of many community colleges offering FAFSA days now that the new FAFSA has launched. Their FAFSA day is coming up on Jan. 27.

Cape Fear Community College announced a new executive director for their Wilson Center.

Chatham County’s “State of the County” update focused on two of the largest economic development projects in state history — and the role of Central Carolina Community College in supporting their development:

In conjunction with these projects, Central Carolina Community College has partnered with Wolfspeed and VinFast to create courses and programs to help train residents to fill these new positions… To better assist this growing workforce training, CCCC is also renovating the E. Eugene Moore Manufacturing and Biotech Solutions Center to create an education center that will be “the largest facility in the state focused on addressing the workforce needs of advanced manufacturing and biotechnology.”

Haywood Community College announced two contributions totaling $40,000 to support students facing hardships.

Richmond Community College is one of 11 community colleges to receive support from Duke Energy for programs aimed at producing workers in the electrical industry.

Wilkes Community College will hold forums this week featuring the two finalists for their college presidency. A spokesman for the WCC Board of Trustees said, “We invite and encourage everyone to participate in the open forums, (which) will be made accessible to all faculty, administrators, staff, students and the general public.” The college expects to reach a decision shortly thereafter.

Other higher education reads

7 higher education trends to watch in 2024

Higher Ed Dive has an article out exploring seven trends expected to impact higher education in 2024. Check out the article for the full list, but the section on AI was particularly interesting:

Despite a lot of prognosticating, the higher ed world really hasn’t figured out how the rise of ChatGPT and similar generative AI will affect colleges.

Though pundits have fretted about such services facilitating academic dishonesty, scholars who study such issues have argued cheating hasn’t skyrocketed as AI has gone mainstream.

Many predictions focus on AI in admissions — will students flood these offices with ChatGPT-written essays? Will the role of application reader be severely diminished if AI reviews them instead?

The answers to those questions haven’t fully been fleshed out, and few institutions have publicly discussed their stances on applicants’ use of AI.

One big-name college, the Georgia Institute of Technology, posted a statement to its website describing AI as “powerful and valuable tools” in undergraduate admissions.

Georgia Tech prohibited copying and pasting essays directly from ChatGPT but urged applicants to use the service as a sounding board to sharpen ideas.

What trends are you thinking about for 2024? Reply directly to this email with your thoughts! We’ll feature a few of your replies next week.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.