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The State Board has a new leader

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Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. We hope you will stay a while. If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

Burr Sullivan is the new chair of the State Board… the system’s strategic planning process has kicked off… MerleFest returns and we have the story… Central Piedmont Community College president Kandi Deitemeyer joined us for a podcast… myFutureNC named five high schools First in FAFSA winners…

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week and selected a new chair. Anna Pogarcic has the story:

Burr Sullivan was elected as the new chair of the Board on Friday. In a 11-8 vote, members chose him over Lisa Estep, who was recently reappointed to the Board. Sullivan will finish out the term of former chair Breeden Blackwell, whose tenure on the Board ended this month.

Sullivan, a retired business owner, promised to bring that experience to his leadership. He recognized the challenges that many colleges are facing now and said he will call on the Board to use their “best thinking.”

“This is a very humbling experience to have a chance to lead a group of people as talented as the people in this room,” he said.

The State Board also held a series of sessions dedicated to their new strategic plan. The State Board and system’s goal “is to be the first choice in affordability and accessibility for North Carolina students, a model for diversity, and an economic driver for the state.”

If you want to know more about the meeting — including the Board’s SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, an update on the Career Coach program, and a preview of the upcoming DEI report that includes a recommendation to scrap the Residency Determination Service — click here for Anna’s story.

We also caught up with Central Piedmont Community College president Kandi Deitemeyer to discuss her extraordinary year, spent a few days at MerleFest as the festival returned, and continued our reporting on adult learners last week as our special series on adult learners will debut next week.

Thank you for allowing us into your inbox again this week.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

What challenges are N.C. community colleges facing? Board dives into strategic plan

As noted above, Burr Sullivan is now the chair of the State Board after the previous chair, Breeden Blackwell, was not reappointed by the North Carolina Senate. Sullivan will help guide the Board through the new strategic plan process.

As Anna Pogarcic reports, “The goal: to be the first choice in affordability and accessibility for North Carolina students, a model for diversity, and an economic driver for the state.”

This goal will be achieved — or not — against the backdrop of declining enrollment, the need to bolster academic attainment (i.e. earn a high-quality credential or degree), uneven population growth across the state, and more.

Anna laid out a few additional details you may want to make note of:

To conclude the first day, the Board did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for the system. Here are the highlights:

Strengths: staff and faculty, economic opportunities in parts of the state, strength of rural communities

Weaknesses: funding/enrollment/retention, lack of an engagement strategy, understanding the root cause of these trends, leadership transitions, lack of data analysis

Opportunities: federal COVID-19 funds, collaboration with partners, energy of the Board, private sector partnerships

Threats: decreases in enrollment, funding, faculty retention and recruitment, salaries, four-year and for-profit institutions competing for space

The process of formulating the strategic plan is expected to last about a year. In the meantime, system staff plan to engage students, faculty, and staff at colleges over the next few months. Details are still in the works, so stay tuned.

We would be curious to know if you agree with their list — and what you might add or take away. Reply directly to this email with your thoughts.

Click here for the full story

Listen | Kandi Deitemeyer on leading a college during a pandemic and cyberattack

Kandi Deitemeyer and Central Piedmont Community College were not alone in facing the many trials and tribulations offered up by COVID-19 for higher education — but they also faced a significant cyberattack that captured plenty of headlines locally.

Kandi sat with my colleague Emily Thomas recently to discuss the year, including her tenure as head of the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents.

She struck an optimistic note when she told Emily, “There is no doubt that every day when I get up that the bright spot in my life is that I get to lead one of the most incredible institutions, in the most incredible system, and do incredible things — which is help change the trajectory of people’s lives and make sure they can change the trajectory of their families.”

Give the full conversation a listen by clicking here.

Around NC

MerleFest — a bluegrass festival with the proceeds going to support Wilkes Community College — happened for 31 years in a row prior to being cancelled due to COVID-19. Emily Thomas joined the triumphant return of MerleFest last weekend and documented it in her story that we just published.

Emily provides some additional context on MerleFest in her piece:

MerleFest is an internationally renowned music festival and fundraiser. It has deep roots in the western region of North Carolina – with both music and gardening.

The music festival started when Wilkes Community College horticulture instructor, “B” Townes, wanted to raise money for the campus gardens. And 33 years later, it’s no longer just a fundraiser for the college.

MerleFest has a $12 million annual economic impact on the community, said Jeff Cox, president of Wilkes Community College.

Before bringing everyone together this year, festival organizers worked with local, state, and federal public health officials to put safety protocols in place. Attendees had to show proof of full vaccination or test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before arriving at the event.

Click over to her piece for some fantastic photos documenting the weekend.

Dale Jenkins, former CEO of Curi and co-chair of myFutureNC Commission; Dr. Laura Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College; and Rev. James Gailliard, Senior Pastor at Word Tabernacle and member of the NC House of Representatives, joined Institute for Emerging Issues for their First in Future podcast recently. You can give the episode a listen by clicking here.

While we are on the topic of myFutureNC, they announced the First in FAFSA 2021 Innovation Grant winners last week. The winners are:
* Mountain Heritage High School, Yancey County Schools
* North Lenoir High Schools, Lenoir County Public Schools
* Person High School, Person County Schools
* South Granville High School, Granville County Schools
* Statesville High School, Iredell-Statesville Schools

Per a press release from myFutureNC, “Each school will receive a $500 grant from myFutureNC to expand college access programs and to create a culture that believes all students can pursue a postsecondary education.”

The issue of students opting out of college pathways during COVID-19 has come up time and time again during our travel. I’ve had numerous education leaders share stories of students who began to work during COVID to contribute to their family’s financial well-being. STRADA Education will host a panel on September 29 titled, “Listening to Recent High School Grads: ‘Be Mindful of What We Have Gone Through.'” Register here.

WUNC released a deeply reported piece looking at Robeson County’s COVID-19 vaccination rates. I highly recommend spending time with the piece as they explore the complicated, nuanced reasons why people are choosing to either receive a vaccination or not.

Other higher education reads

College and University Presidents Respond to COVID-19

Politico spotlighted this data point last week: “One group of people whose mental-health needs largely aren’t being met on campus are community college students, who tend to be older and poorer than their peers at four-year institutions. One in five community college presidents said their campuses don’t provide any mental health services, according to a survey conducted last year by the American Council on Education.”

A breakdown on enrollment barriers

This article looks at a survey by Cengage Group about obstacles to enrollment and completion.

“This summer, the Cengage Group surveyed 1,622 people – a mix of currently enrolled college students (40%), high school graduates (21%) and those who dropped out of college (39%) – about the obstacles they face enrolling in and completing college. About half (49%) of respondents say cost of living or cost of tuition and course materials are the biggest barriers to education.”

The data is not broken down by state — and we know tuition levels vary by state — but I’d take a look at the recommendations, including expanding online offerings and competency-based education. One recommendation that particularly stood out to me was the “‘unbundling of education and stackable credentials,’ which could allow students to access ‘just-in-time education in a cycle of learn-work-learn, and stack their education and its costs over time.'”

Cengage also recommends connecting students to resources, including housing, transportation, and sources of emergency funding.

Report | Achieving Financial Equity and Justice for HBCUs

The Century Foundation is out with a special report on HBCUs that is worth your time. One key takeaway looks at endowment data: “Data from recent years show that, on average, endowments per full-time equivalent (FTE) student at public non-HBCUs are three times the size of those of public HBCUs. Among private institutions, that inequity is even more outsized.”

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.