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A new initiative to help rural-serving colleges

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 — EdNC’s newsletter focused on community colleges and the postsecondary landscape in North Carolina. We appreciate you allowing us into your inbox this week. If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

Welcome our newest team member, Hannah McClellan, who will be reporting on community colleges…the Belk Center and Achieving the Dream launch the Rural College Leaders Program…the State Board meets in Raleigh this week…the North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation is hosting a launch party March 28 on LinkedIn Live…

Good morning,

Molly here, filling in for Nation this week. Please welcome the newest member of our team, Hannah McClellan, who will be reporting on community colleges statewide:

“Hi everyone! My name is Hannah McClellan, and I’m a new EducationNC reporter covering community colleges, postsecondary access, and faith. I grew up in northeastern North Carolina, where I attended Currituck High School and took dual enrollment courses at College of The Albemarle. I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2020 with a degree in journalism and global studies and am currently a M.Div. student at Duke Divinity School.

I’m the daughter of a public school educator, so education has long held a special place in my heart. That said, I am really grateful for the opportunity to work for an organization doing work I respect so much, covering colleges and communities doing such important work as well. In the coming weeks and months especially, I’d love to connect with you all to learn more about your colleges and communities. Feel free to reach out anytime at . Looking forward to working with you all!”

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, in partnership with Achieving the Dream, recently launched the Rural College Leadership Program, an initiative to help 10 rural-serving community colleges address the challenges they face and capitalize on opportunities. RCLP is a three-year program supported by Ascendium Education Group and is designed to close equity gaps and improve student outcomes.

The cohort includes the following community colleges: Carteret, Catawba ValleyCollege of the AlbemarleDavidson-DavieIsothermalMcDowell TechnicalRoanoke-ChowanStanlyVance-Granville, and Western Piedmont. The initiative held their first convening on Feb. 28, and Emily Thomas was there to cover it. Read more about it here.

Both nationally and in North Carolina, fewer male students of color are choosing to enroll in community colleges. Alessandra Quattrocchi, one of our John M. Belk Impact Fellows, looks at two initiatives designed to address this issue: the system office’s Minority Male Student Success initiative and the REACH collaborative. Learn more about this trend and how it is impacting North Carolina’s community colleges in her story. What is your college doing to recruit, support, and retain male students of color? Please let us know by replying to this email, or emailing me at [email protected].

And finally, the State Board of Community Colleges meets this week. You can find the agenda and Board package here.

Thanks for reading,

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Director of News and Policy —

EdNC reads

Rural isn’t going away: New initiative launches to help rural-serving community colleges

Leaders from 10 community colleges gathered for the first convening of the Rural College Leaders Program (RCLP) on Feb. 28. RCLP is a new initiative launched by the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, in partnership with Achieving the Dream, and works with rural-serving community colleges in North Carolina. The program is designed to help college leaders close equity gaps and improve student outcomes at their institutions.

According to a press release, leaders will “collaborate to define measurable goals, leverage evidence-based practices, identify opportunities, and develop action plans addressing strategic priorities.”

Out of 100 counties in North Carolina, 78 are considered rural. That means 40 of the state’s 58 community colleges serve at least one rural county. And while the challenges of higher education exist in every community, rural areas often experience those to a greater degree. Rural communities are often poorer, underserved, and have lower college completion rates than in urban areas.

In this article, Emily recaps a portion of RCLP’s first convening and speaks to why investing resources, time, and energy in rural communities is critical. You’ll see initial reactions to the program – where college leaders shed light on why they are involved in RCLP and how this work will help them address the unique challenges and opportunities at their institutions and in their communities. And you’ll see insights from thought leaders who have years of experience working in rural communities.

The takeaway: Rural isn’t going away. College leaders in rural communities will need to continue to seek out partnerships, examine policies that prevent access, and challenge long-held beliefs about how their college shows up in the community.

The Rural College Leaders Program is a three-year program and includes 10 community colleges from across the state. The next RCLP learning event is scheduled for September 2022. Between learning events, participants will gather in regional collaborative groups to continue the work.

Read the story here

How N.C. community colleges are addressing the enrollment decline in male students of color

EdNC’s John M. Belk impact fellow, Alessandra Quattrocchi, takes a look at male enrollment decline across the nation and in North Carolina.

Nationwide, 400,000 fewer men attended college in spring 2021 than in spring 2020, an enrollment decline nearly double that of female students.”

Community colleges have been some of the hardest hit when it comes to declining male enrollment. And in North Carolina, Black men suffered the largest enrollment decline with traditional degree-seeking enrollment falling 14% from the year prior.

Alessandra goes on to discuss these trends and how North Carolina community colleges are combating declining male enrollments, particularly among minority males. 

Two initiatives are currently ongoing in NC community colleges: The Minority Male Success Initiative and Racial Equity for Adult Credentials in Higher Education (REACH) Collaborative.

MMSI started in 2003 with state funding and has continued to address minority male attainment and achievement gaps since then. Currently, 21 of North Carolina’s community colleges are receiving funding for one of three options that the MMSI offers: programming, success coaches, and Early Alert.”

REACH is an effort spearheaded by the Lumina Foundation to recruit and retain adult learners of color across 24 North Carolina community colleges. The goal of REACH is a 2% increase in high-quality credential attainment and outcomes for these students over the next two years.”

This works matters because it ensures that N.C.’s male students of color are part of the state’s proposition to boost economic opportunity for all.


Click here for more

Around NC

The second cohort of the N.C. Reconnect adult learner pilot is up and running. Mebane Rash joined members of the John M. Belk Endowment team at Wilkes Community College last Friday. Check out what she learned here.

From Dr. Josh Howell, Editor-In-Chief of the North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation: The North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation is hosting a launch party on Monday, March 28, 2022 through LinkedIn Live. Hear from authors and editors, and learn about the next call for submissions. The event page can be found here.

McDowell Tech announced in a press release a new position to support their adult learner efforts: Susan Long is the new Director of Student Enrichment and Adult Engagement. “In her new role Long will provide critical outreach to re-engage adult students who have stopped out from MTCC without finishing a degree or credential,” the press release reads.

Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh recently visited Durham Tech and spoke on the importance of apprenticeships, pathways to careers, and economic mobility. Read more about their visit in this press release, and see Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton’s remarks here.

Gov. Cooper visited Forsyth Tech last week to highlight the impact of the Longleaf Commitment Grant. Forsyth Tech also announced it will continue its “College Commitment” grant program, which provides free tuition, books and fees for all graduating high school seniors.

Kelley Deal, dean of marketing and strategic engagement at Nash Community College, wrote a perspective featuring Macey O’Hara, a welding and computer-integrated machining student at Nash. O’Hara says, “I tell everybody: you need to go to Nash. The teachers are supportive and understanding and they can help you reach your career goals.”

The NC COVID-19 Student Response Corps is looking for host organizations and students interested in interning as part of their third cohort. Read more about what the Response Corps has done in its first two years, and find out how to apply (both as a host organization and as a student intern), in this perspective.

The Fayetteville Observer published an op-ed recently arguing that community college instructors should be granted tenure. Read it here.

The Surry Community College Library has been involved in a digital history project for the past six years, which, according to the Mount Airy News, is the second largest local digital history project in North Carolina. Read more about the project here.

Other higher education reads

Colleges’ new solution to enrollment declines: Reducing the number of dropouts

This Hechinger Report story looks at “a new emphasis at colleges and universities on plugging the steady drip of dropouts.” The story focuses on what one school, Florida Atlantic University, is doing to retain students and what lessons schools can learn from them.


Tuition-free college movement gains momentum, despite Biden’s stalled plan

This Washington Post article gives an update on the possibility of federally supported tuition-free community college. The article points out that despite the failure to pass Build Back Better, many states have moved forward this year with their own plans.

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and Chief Operating Officer for EducationNC.