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Collaboration among community colleges, and the stories of this year's graduates

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. If you missed last week’s edition of Awake58, find it here.

Governor allocates $5.3 million for summer tuition assistance… Community colleges are collaborating to build a regional workforce… The stories from this year’s community college graduates… Commencement speeches from across the state…

Good morning,

Emily here, filling in for Nation while he’s away. 

This week we’re talking about the resiliency of the 58 community colleges and the students who persevered and earned a credential during a pandemic. We’ve compiled stories from graduates across the state’s community colleges, highlighting their determination and grit. From adult learners to early college students, these stories embody Dallas Herring’s ideal for the North Carolina Community College System – “take people from where they are and carry them as far as they can go.”

We’re also sharing some of the advice given to the community college graduates. Thomas Stith, president of the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS), delivered remarks to Mitchell Community College’s graduating class. Vice Chair of the State Board of Community Colleges Bill McBrayer returned to his hometown as Isothermal Community College’s 2022 commencement speaker. Nation Hahn and I also delivered remarks last month. Nation talked about rural regions and their significance at Beaufort Community College’s commencement. I returned to my hometown to share with Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute about my own journey as a CCC&TI student. 

EdNC’s Hannah McClellan talks about collaboration and partnership among community colleges. Hannah lifts up what’s happening nationally as community college leaders think long-term about being the problem-solvers for their communities and how much of that rests on partnerships. In North Carolina, several community colleges are leading the way when it comes to thinking outside the box – collaborating with each other to provide expanded programs and services for students. Some of those collaborations include RTP Bio, an effort between the two colleges to unite their biotechnology, biomanufacturing, and biopharmaceutical talent pipelines, truck-driver training programs being shared across campuses, and a shared grant between two colleges to add high-tech instructional simulation equipment in health care, manufacturing, and construction trades programs.

Gov. Roy Cooper allocated $5.3 million to community colleges in Summer Accelerator grant funding. The program provides up to $5,000 for students taking community college, UNC System, or private university classes. Students can use the money for tuition, fees, books, housing, and other expenses. Click here to read the full article. 

Do you have a community college story to share? Respond directly to this email or send me a note [email protected]

Thanks for reading Awake58,

Emily Thomas

Policy Analyst –


EdNC reads

‘This is really the future’: N.C. community colleges collaborate to build regional workforce

North Carolina’s 58 community colleges have traditionally competed in some ways with one another for students — and the resulting funding that is based on enrollment. But as enrollment declines persist and colleges emphasize the need for accessible student services, among other reasons, that competitive relationship is increasingly shifting to a formally collaborative one.

In North Carolina, a new workforce development collaboration between Wake Technical Community College and Durham Technical Community College — RTP Bio — is an effort between the two colleges to unite their biotechnology, biomanufacturing, and biopharmaceutical talent pipelines.

With some overlapping geographical boundaries, Wake Tech and Durham Tech often compete to attract students. Now, the colleges will work together to connect students to regional biotech employers. 

RTP Bio is one of the most significant collaborations between N.C. community colleges, according to college leaders involved in the program, but others exist. Read Hannah McClellan’s article to find out more about such collaborations at Central Carolina, Caldwell, Isothermal, and McDowell Technical community colleges.

Governor allocates $5.3 million to N.C. community colleges for summer tuition assistance. Here’s how to access it

Students struggling to afford classes this summer might find relief through a new $27 million “Summer Accelerator” grant program, announced by Gov. Roy Cooper in April.

The program provides up to $5,000 for students taking community college, UNC System, or private university classes. Students can use the money for tuition, fees, books, housing, and other expenses.

Eligible students for the Summer Accelerator grant must be:

  • North Carolina residents for tuition purposes.
  • Enrolled in an academic program leading to a postsecondary degree or credential.
  • Working towards their first postsecondary degree or credential.

To apply for the Summer Accelerator grant, students should contact the financial aid office at their school. Click through the spreadsheet in the previous URL for contact information at your community college, and read our coverage of the grant here for more information.

Stories of hope: Celebrating North Carolina’s community college graduates

Each year, the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) serves more than 500,000 students, supports 319, 763 jobs, and employs 36,422 people. A recent economic impact study found that NCCCS contributes about $19.3 billion to the state’s economy each year.

But this year was particularly special for North Carolina’s community colleges. Many of the 58 held their first in-person commencement ceremonies since the start of the pandemic, and some had their largest graduating classes cross the stage this year.

It was also a special year for the 2022 graduates. Many of them started their college journey in the middle of a pandemic, while others chose to return and complete their education after having been out of school for years. Their resilience, determination, and steadfastness are highlighted here.

Around NC

The North Carolina Community College System conference is scheduled for October 9-12 in Raleigh, N.C. The deadline to submit a presentation proposal has been extended to June 19. Find more details here. 

The Accountability and Audit Committee of the State Board of Community Colleges will meet virtually on June 7 at 10:00 a.m. The meeting is open to the public. View the agenda here.

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, in partnership with Achieving the Dream and the N.C. Student Success Center, announced the expansion of the N.C. Teaching & Learning Hubs, a student success and education equity program that connects educators and creates professional development opportunities for community college leaders across North Carolina.

Caldwell Community College’s baseball team ended their season last Tuesday at the the NJCAA Division III World Series. The Cobra’s finished the season 49-9, third place in the nation.

North Carolina community colleges are stepping up to help meet the truck driver demand. Read how Davidson-Davie and other community colleges are working to supply the state with more trained truck drivers.

McDowell Tech is hiring a vice president of academic and student services. Find more details here.

A United Parcel Service retiree has enrolled in Intro to Construction at Rockingham Community College to learn fundamentals so she can accomplish some of her own home repairs and upgrades.

Mitchell Community College recently honored its 2020, 2021, and 2022 retirees. These retiring employees have contributed a combined total of more than 300 years of service to Mitchell Community College.

A Charlotte eye clinic that closed suddenly in April is reopening and has a new home. The clinic will now be located at Central Piedmont Community College.

Other higher education reads

A 5th Straight Semester of Enrollment Declines

After nearly a decade of declines, the NCCCS saw a bit of a bump last fall in enrollment. Recently released data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, however, shows that enrollment continues to decline.

Enrollment is down at all higher education sectors. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported total enrollment for spring 2022 fell by 4.1%. That’s the fifth straight semester of declining enrollment.

EdNC continues to track enrollment across North Carolina’s community colleges. You can read some of our previous reporting here.

Rural colleges: A rewarding leadership opportunity

Dr. Linda Lujan, president of Lamar Community College, writes about the unique opportunities rural leaders have when it comes to serving their institutions and communities.

“I would advise presidential hopefuls not to ignore rural leadership jobs and not to view them as “just a stepping stone to a bigger college.” Being a rural president is the most engaging, challenging and rewarding leadership opportunity I’ve ever experienced in my long career in higher education and I hope future presidents take a good look at rural presidencies because I believe they are the best job anywhere.”

Those sentiments are echoed by many of our rural-serving leaders at North Carolina’s community colleges. Read what Southwestern Community College’s president, Dr. Don Tomas, says about serving rural regions. And check out this article about a newly launched Rural College Leaders Program that helps rural-serving institutions address the challenges they face and capitalize on opportunities.

Postsecondary Pathways | Summer Bridge: Creating a Sense of Belong for BIPOC Students during the Transition to Postsecondary Education

Join the Hunt Institute for a webinar on June 9 at 2:00 p.m. EST. The webinar will address Summer Bridge programs.

“Summer Bridge programs are academic and cultural summer programs that support the transition for high school to postsecondary education by introducing students to a college environment and creating a sense of belonging prior to the start of their first semester. These summer bridge programs are especially impactful for racially underrepresented students in terms of retention, matriculation, and graduation.”

Click here to register for the event. 

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.