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The State Board takes up a series of significant issues

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 — EdNC’s newsletter focused on community colleges and the post-secondary 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.

The State Board met last week and approved a three year legislative agenda, allocated state funds, and a whole lot more… Fayetteville Tech president Larry Keen and Randolph Community College president Bob Shackleford announced their retirement dates last week… We take a look at the handful of community colleges bucking national enrollment trends… We also take a look at the work underway at colleges to grapple with mental health…

The State Board met last week for an action packed agenda. The board reviewed and approved the plan for state-allocated funds for adult learners, voted to approve a new three-year legislative agenda for the system, learned of the announced retirements of two college presidents, and held a one-year review of system president Thomas Stith’s tenure in closed session. EdNC’s Anna Pogarcic will have an article on all this and more coming soon, so stay tuned to

The landscape of community college leaders across the state continues to see a shake-up as well. Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Grovenstein will soon retire from the system office. Fayetteville Tech president Larry Keen announced Jan. 1, 2023 as his retirement date last week, and Randolph Community College president Bob Shackleford announced July 1, 2022 as his retirement date shortly thereafter.

Enrollment declines are impacting the postsecondary landscape across the country — and community colleges are not immune. As we’ve reported on numerous times, enrollment has either dropped or remained stagnant at many community colleges across North Carolina during the pandemic. Emily Thomas’ piece on fall 2021 enrollment shares some good news this week:

After the pandemic caused widespread enrollment declines at community colleges both nationally and in North Carolina, preliminary numbers from fall 2021 show a slight uptick in enrollment in North Carolina’s community colleges. Initial full-time student equivalent (FTE) estimates, which are based on the number of accumulated student hours, are up about 1% systemwide.

North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) president Thomas Stith said smaller colleges were seeing the greatest share of enrollment increases in his October report to the State Board of Community Colleges.

“Almost three-fourths of the small colleges have increases. Over a third have increases of 10% or higher. Almost two-thirds of our large colleges have increases. And about a quarter of our medium [sized] colleges have increases.”

For the full story on enrollment, click here.

The U.S. Department of Education announced last week that they will deploy $198 million in American Rescue Plan funding “that will primarily support community colleges and other institutions with the greatest needs.” The Department also issued new guidance on “how colleges can use these new and existing federal funds to meet students’ basic needs such as housing and food security; and guidance on how colleges can use existing data to connect students to other federal benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Affordable Connectivity Program at the Federal Communications Commission.” For full details, click here.

Thank you for reading Awake58 — and all of our EdNC content. As our team travels the state reporting in the weeks and months ahead, we welcome any and all ideas and suggestions for stories that we ought to tell. Please shoot us a note at any point!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

Some N.C. community colleges buck national enrollment trends

“There seems to be a general malaise related to COVID-19 hanging over our communities that has affected our students’ willingness to engage in what we would consider the pre-pandemic norm,” noted Margaret Annunziata, president of Isothermal Community College, in Emily Thomas’ piece on enrollment trends across the community college system.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a significant disruption to our economy and workforce. The prolonged nature of the pandemic when combined with government interventions — ranging from stimulus checks to K-12 schools largely going virtual — created a different kind of environment for community colleges.

At the same time, many of our rural communities are facing declining enrollments that align with declining populations across the state:

Counties with declining populations generally experience enrollment declines while counties with population growth tend to see enrollment growth.

According to a report Schneider shared during the December State Board meeting, 46 of the 58 colleges had FTE shifts that aligned with population shifts. …

Schneider said if you look at population changes of those aged 0-14 and population by county of 15-44 year-olds, you can make the assumption that more rural schools will continue to see declining enrollments compared to urban schools.

Despite these issues, several community colleges saw significant enrollment growth this past fall. Emily highlights some bright spots, including the impact of the Longleaf Commitment and other free tuition initiatives like Martin Community College’s “Career in a Year,” shifts in messaging and marketing strategies, and the payoff for adult learner-focused efforts for colleges involved in the N.C. Reconnect Pilot.

As you read her piece, we would love to hear your thoughts on enrollment — please feel free to reply directly to this email!

Click here for the story on enrollment

Community colleges face mounting mental health challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of increased hardship for many students, which has contributed to an increase in mental health challenges. We know that our community colleges are on the front lines of helping students work through these challenges.

Alli Lindenberg talked to counselors at Isothermal Community College and Forsyth Tech Community College to learn more.

“We had a lot of students dealing with grief, because of the loss of loved ones during the pandemic, and not being able to deal with how it happened. Individuals who lost jobs, it was just a lot of stuff that just started coming,” said Kenyetta Richmond of Forsyth Technical Community College.

Read the full piece here

NOMINATE | Moments of Hope across our community colleges

We are bringing our Moment of Hope series to community colleges! The Moment of Hope series started in 2020 as a way to highlight positive stories directly from our schools. Participants engage in a 15 minute interview with us, and then we transform that interview into a social media feature like this one.

Do you know a community college faculty, staff member, or student that we should talk to? Please submit your nominations below!

Nominate here!

Around NC

The Hunt Institute reminds us that applications are due Jan. 28 for the 2022-2023 cohort of John M Belk Impact Fellows. They note: “Applications received after this date will be considered on a rolling basis. Please share with students currently enrolled in community college, undergraduate programs, and graduate programs in North Carolina to apply for this 10-month, hands-on learning experience. Learn what current fellows are up to at their nonprofit placements in our new video. You can find the application here.”

Please also check out a message from our colleagues at the NC Education Corps: “Do you have a desire to make a difference in the lives of students? This year, convert your passion into action with North Carolina Education Corps. NC Education Corps seeks part-time, paid tutors to help students learn to read, eager to eliminate barriers to opportunity and accelerate learning for students in NC’s public schools. Become a high-impact literacy tutor this spring and change a child’s life starting today. NC Education Corps will train, equip, and coach tutors; prior classroom experience is not essential. Claim your spot! Apply by the January 31 deadline at” 

Spotlighted in EdNC’s EdDaily last week: “This new report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is the result of a months-long project funded by Lumina Foundation that seeks to reimagine college admission and financial aid through an equity lens. The report recommends a series of actions for admission and financial aid practitioners, educational institutions, and state and federal agencies and policymakers.”

WEBINAR | The Hunt Institute will host a conversation on North Carolina’s HBCUs on February 3rd. This will be worth your time. RSVP here to learn more about the #NC10.

Fayetteville Tech president Larry Keen will retire on January 1, 2023. FTCC president Keen has served in his role for nearly 15 years. Randolph Community College president Bob Shackleford also announced last Thursday that he will retire on July 1, 2022 after serving as president of RCC for 15 years.

We published two community college student perspectives last week. Gloriana Ordóñez Carboni, a student at Forsyth Tech, authored, “Discovering home thousands of miles away at Forsyth Tech.” Carboni’s piece explores how her experience at FTCC compares and contrasts with her past education experiences and her relocation to Winston-Salem during COVID-19:

“Forsyth Tech is a much smaller institution than both colleges I previously attended. Nonetheless, in this past year, I have enjoyed some of the perks of attending a smaller institution. Forsyth Tech feels like much more than an educational institution; it feels like home. True to Southern hospitality, from my very first visit to request information to my last final for the year, the staff and faculty have gone above and beyond their duty to make me feel like I belong. With a plethora of activities to cater to every student, there is always something going on. Although my first semester was mostly remote learning, I never felt like a stranger as the student life and engagement team at Forsyth Tech found clever ways to unite students through screens and devices.”

Lindsay Webb, another Forsyth Tech student, shared a perspective exploring her experience as an adult student:

Nearly a decade later, I decided to go back to school at Forsyth Technical Community College. This time, in my 30s, I knew I wanted a clear view of my destination with some guarantee that I could afford to provide for myself and pay off any student loans when I graduated. I reviewed different environmental jobs since they aligned closely with my lifelong interests and values. I chose a career goal of becoming an environmental planner or environmental consultant, which would provide ecological expertise to urban planning and land management projects.

Strada Education announced additional grants for the Beyond Completion Challenge — an effort designed “to support higher education institutions to identify and expand new solutions that will improve career and life opportunities for more students.” North Carolina A&T and UNC-Chapel Hill are two of the institutions in the latest cohort.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced new partnerships with Central Piedmont Community College and Durham Tech last week. The effort is designed “to expand diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the North Carolina insurance sales workforce. The Health Insurance Agent DEI Initiative consists of investments to help N.C. community colleges launch or expand insurance licensing programs, fund scholarships for eligible students in those programs, and help insurance sales agents hire and retain diverse, qualified talent.”

Forsyth Tech will now serve as a SAS Academy. Forsyth Tech students will be able to add a SAS certification as part of their Data Programming Certificate offering.

McDowell Tech will begin to offer an Associate in Nursing beginning in the fall of 2022. For more details, click here.

Other higher education reads

More than 1 million fewer students are in college. Here's how that impacts the economy

The latest data in enrollment nationally shows a stark drop in enrollment:

“More than 1 million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic began. According to new data released Thursday, U.S. colleges and universities saw a drop of nearly 500,000 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021, continuing a historic decline that began the previous fall.”

Community colleges nationwide are down 13% since the fall of 2019, and NPR explores the ramifications in this piece:

“The phenomenon of students sitting out of college seems to be more widespread. It’s not just the community colleges anymore,” says Shapiro. “That could be the beginning of a whole generation of students rethinking the value of college itself. I think if that were the case, this is much more serious than just a temporary pandemic-related disruption.”

Higher Ed Dive is also out with a piece looking at the enrollment trend.

A Higher Ed Subsidy from the Right

Our colleagues at The Assembly published a deeply reported exploration of the NC Promise program, including the program’s recent expansion to Fayetteville State. The Assembly commissioned Sarah Brown to write the piece, and in the Assembly’s latest Sunday email, she explained why this reporting matters to the state:

“A few factors set NC Promise apart: the size of the legislative investment, which will jump to $82.5 million next year and has to keep growing as enrollment grows; the fact that it’s a first-dollar program, where the state subsidy kicks in before federal aid and other scholarships; and the hand-picking of just a few universities for super-low tuition, while the other UNC System campuses continue to charge higher prices.

Across the country, most state-funded Promise programs target community colleges. In New York, the Excelsior Scholarship allows students to go to four-year institutions tuition-free, but only if their families earn less than $125,000 a year. There are major merit scholarships for four-year colleges, like in Georgia, where students have to meet certain academic requirements. NC Promise, meanwhile, has no means testing or limitations.

The fact that North Carolina’s sharply reduced tuition also covers out-of-state students seems unusual, too.”

For the full piece, click here.

Federal relief money boosted community colleges, but now it’s going away

Community colleges have received a significant influx of federal funds as part of pandemic relief efforts. Over the last year, we have joined a number of conversations about how colleges are deploying these federal funds. This piece from Hechinger Report asks the question on the minds of many: What is next when the money goes away?

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.