Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

A week spent with our community colleges

A note from us

Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. If you missed last week’s newsletter focusing on the trends likely to shape the community college landscape in 2024, you can find it on

The State Board of Community Colleges meets this week… Dual enrollment grew by 12% in 2022-2023, according to the latest data… Primary results are in… Pitt Community College will host a forum as part of their search for a new president… Promotion of the Next NC scholarship continues to increase… 

The State Board of Community Colleges will meet this week. The Board has a different schedule this week due to the NC Association of Community College Trustees Law and Legislative Seminar. The programs and finance committee met yesterday, and the full Board will also meet on Friday. You can find the agenda and board package on the State Board’s website.

Thank you to everyone for your feedback on my deep dive looking at the issues that are likely to impact our community college landscape over the coming year. Several readers wrote in to share the issues they believe are most likely to impact their local colleges, including continued apprenticeship growth, the rollout of the Next NC Scholarship, and more. One reader pointed out that it isn’t just colleges that must meet industry needs, but industry must also work to partner with community colleges in terms of providing apprenticeship slots, clinical hours in the health care space, and more. We welcome continued feedback!

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting three community colleges in western North Carolina. My journey began at Haywood Community College (HCC), where I spent two separate days on campus. One of those days marked the one-year anniversary of Pactiv Evergreen announcing the closure of the mill that had been the dominant employer in their area. The conversations I had in Haywood County centered around HCC’s pivotal role in spearheading “the rural response” to the numerous challenges and opportunities their community has faced in recent years. Stay tuned for a video that will showcase Haywood’s story later this spring.

On a rainy Wednesday morning, I found myself at Blue Ridge Community College, where I caught with Blue Ridge CC President Laura Leatherwood. We discussed a wide range of topics, including Blue Ridge’s success in dual enrollment programs. Later, Benjamin Rickert, the director of marketing at Blue Ridge CC, accompanied me to the horticulture program’s home, where I met with lead instructor Rachel Meriwether. Rachel provided insights into the college’s efforts to meet regional industry needs, highlighting the recent groundbreaking for a new state-of-the-art high-tech greenhouse.

Thursday brought me to Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s advanced manufacturing center, where I spent the morning with Kevin Kimrey, the college’s director of economic and workforce development. Under Kimrey’s leadership, the Advanced Manufacturing Center is driving customized training programs for major industry players such as GE Aerospace and Pratt Whitney, ensuring a skilled workforce for the region’s thriving manufacturing sector.

Finally, the primary election last Tuesday included a major upset in the education space, as State Superintendent Catherine Truitt was defeated in the Republican primary. Laura’s recap of election night provides details on a number of election results that could have a direct impact on education.

Thank you for reading Awake58 this week!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

Here’s who won in North Carolina’s 2024 primary races, plus what this means for education

Laura’s recap of election night walks you through the results of several key races across the state that may impact education moving forward.

Candidate Michele Morrow, a nurse and homeschool educator, defeated incumbent Catherine Truitt in the Republican primary race for superintendent of public instruction. Morrow will face Democrat Maurice (Mo) Green, an attorney and former superintendent of Guilford County Schools.

Laura caught up with Western Carolina University Professor Chris Cooper, who shared the following takeaways from election night:

“It’s pretty unusual to knock an incumbent off. It’s even more unusual to knock off an incumbent in a primary in a lower salience election where people tend to know less about the candidates in the office. And it’s even less likely to pull off that upset when you’re outraised eight to one,” Cooper said. “Despite all three of those things, Michele Morrow won.”

Cooper said lower voter turnout meant the voters who did show up tend to be less moderate and more firmly situated on party lines.

Democratic voters followed the same trend as Republicans, according to Cooper, with voters also selecting more progressive candidates over more moderate ones. However, fewer votes were cast in the Democratic primary compared to the Republican Primary.

According to Carolina Demography36.3% of North Carolina voters were registered as unaffiliated in 2023. Unaffiliated voters may vote in either primary in North Carolina.

Cooper said voters selecting more “extreme” candidates on either side will lead to an “interesting” November for North Carolina voters.

“You’re going to have a purple state without many purple candidates on the ballot,” Cooper said. “Whether that drives up turnout because of negative partisanship — the idea that you want to vote the other person out — or whether that depresses turnout because moderate voters don’t like their choices, I think that remains to be seen. But it’s going to be an interesting juxtaposition regardless.”

Dual enrollment in North Carolina grew 12% in 2022-23

Dual enrollment programs across North Carolina saw continued growth in 2022-2023.

Dual enrollment increased by 12% in North Carolina during the 2022-23 academic year. According to a recent report to the General Assembly, more than 78,000 students across the state participated in Career and College Promise (CCP) — a program that allows high school students to take college courses tuition-free.

Dr. Brian Merritt, senior vice president and chief academic officer at the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), said in a press release that it’s no surprise participation continues to increase statewide.

“These tuition-free opportunities are drivers of economic mobility and generational change for high school students and their families,” he said.

Emily’s article also highlights some key findings in the dual enrollment space:

During EdNC’s 2022 impact tour of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, one area we focused on was the impact of Career and College Promise. Our visits and interviews led to a series of articles lifting up promising practices and opportunities for the state’s dual enrollment program.

Research has consistently found that Career and College Promise benefits students, parents, and North Carolina as a whole.

five-year study showed students who participated in CCP had higher high school graduation rates and higher postsecondary enrollment rates than those who did not. The study compared CCP students to a similar group of students who did not participate in CCP over seven years.

Students in college transfer or CTE pathways were 9% more likely to enroll in a North Carolina public college after high school. CIHS students were 27% more likely to enroll in a North Carolina public college after graduating.

The study also found that economically disadvantaged students and those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups benefited most from CCP.

Around NC

State Board of Community Colleges | The N.C. State Board of Community Colleges will have meetings as follows this week:

Thursday, March 14, 2024: NCACCT Law / Legislative Seminar 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Raleigh Marriott, City Center. Agenda.

Friday, March 15, 2024: NCACCT Law / Legislative Seminar 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. The full Board will meet 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Agenda.

The meetings will be livestreamed on the N.C. Community College System Office YouTube channel.

More on Propel NC | The N.C. Community College System recently published a press release with more information about funding model Propel NC.

Pitt CC will host a community forum for their next president | As Pitt Community College prepares for the retirement of its current president, the college will host a public forum to gather input from the community regarding the desired qualities and qualifications for the next leader who will guide the institution into the future. Pitt CC is also mourning the passing of former Pitt president Charles Russell.

Invitation from ApprenticeshipNC | Join ApprenticeshipNC April 16-17 at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem for the ApprenticeshipNC’s annual conference. RSVP here: ApprenticeshipNC 2024 Annual Conference Tickets.

Submissions open | The NC Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation’s (NCCCJTI) editorial board has opened their call for submissions for Volume 3 Issue 1. The Journal provides all North Carolina Community College faculty and staff with an outlet for publishing manuscripts of research and practice, as well as providing open access to readers or scholars interested in higher education topics surrounding North Carolina Community Colleges. You can submit your manuscripts to [email protected] by May 10th.

NC AHEC announces full-time director | The North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) recently announced Andy Mcrackken as the first full-time director for the NC Center on the Workforce for Health (the Center). MacCrackken joined the team in February and will help lead the Center in their efforts to tackle North Carolina’s health care workforce challenges.

Blue Ridge CC promotes Next NC | The Next NC scholarship has come up often during our recent travel. Blue Ridge Community College recently issued a press release highlighting Next NC:

This fall, North Carolina community college students from families making $80,000 or less each year could receive a state scholarship that fully covers the costs of tuition and fees. According to the terms of the Next NC Scholarship, eligible North Carolina students attending a community college will receive up to $3,000 per year, covering educational expenses with funds that will not need to be repaid.

Current and incoming Blue Ridge Community College students must simply complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to automatically be considered for the scholarship. The priority filing date for incoming Blue Ridge Community College students is August 5, 2024.

“The College Foundation of North Carolina has created an intuitive scholarship experience with the Next NC Scholarship,” said Jon Grunder, Blue Ridge’s director of financial aid. “Blue Ridge students simply need to complete the FAFSA to be automatically considered for the scholarship. For many in Western North Carolina, it will be an excellent opportunity to pursue higher education at little or no cost.”

We would love to hear more about local efforts to promote Next NC. Please send us a note with any observations from your local community!

Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute launches a new apprenticeship | CCC&TI has joined forces with medical professionals from Morganton Eye Physicians, Graystone Eye, and Western Carolina Eye Associates to provide pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs for students.

Other higher education reads

Community Colleges Offer Support Services, But Many Students Are Unaware

New America recently shared some takeaways from their latest community college enrollment survey, including insight on how to best serve students at risk of stopping out.

Community colleges offer a variety of support services that help students persist towards completing their programs. Such support services can be oriented around meeting financial, academic, or basic needs. Last year, we found that those who stopped out of their programs were more likely to be unsure of whether their college offered support services compared to continuing and new students. This year’s community college enrollment survey continues to ask questions about the support services offered at community colleges, if respondents know of these services, and if they have accessed the services. Our findings are similar to that of last year: those who stopped out are not as familiar with support services offered by their institution, highlighting the need for colleges to expand and communicate about the available services to their students.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.