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Colleges offering free tuition are seeing a jump in applications

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Colleges offering free tuition this fall are seeing a jump in applications… McDowell Early College student enters Ph.D. program at just 20 years of age… CPCC gets a record-breaking $10 million donation…New report out on improving college transfer

Good morning all,

Emily here, policy analyst for EdNC. I’m filling in for Nation this week. As always, thank you for taking the time to read Awake58!

Last week, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (CCC&TI) hosted the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents (NCACCP) at their Watauga campus. Kandi Deitemeyer, president of CPCC, has served as president of the NCACCP for the past year. During the three-day event, Deitemeyer officially passed the baton to Mark Poarch, president of CCC&TI. Poarch will serve as president of the NCACCP for the next year.

Colleges offering free tuition this fall are seeing a spike in applications. My colleague Molly Osborne recently talked with Forsyth Technical Community College and Southwestern Community College. Both colleges are offering free tuition this year beyond the Longleaf Commitment Grant: Forsyth Tech is guaranteeing free tuition for all 2021 high school graduates, and Southwestern is offering free tuition for all new and returning students.

After only 10 days, Southwestern said they had processed 274 FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) compared to 76 over the same time period last year. Forsyth Tech’s applications were up 829 compared to the same time last year. You can read Molly’s article here.

After we published the story about free tuition at colleges, we received several questions from readers asking if other colleges are offering free tuition this year. Is your community college offering free tuition beyond the Longleaf Commitment Grant? Let us know! You can email me directly at [email protected]

For an inspiring Tuesday morning read, look no further than this story about a McDowell Early College student who is entering a Ph.D. program at just 20-years-old. Mackenzie Dobson started as a ninth grader at McDowell Early College, received her associate, bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees and is now on her way to the University of Virginia to start a Ph.D. program this fall. Check out the full article here. 

We’re working on some exciting things in the coming months. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to see our college visits, articles, and more. You can find me on Twitter at @emlybrthomas.

Thanks for reading,


Policy Analyst,

EdNC reads

Colleges offering free tuition this fall are seeing a jump in applications

Several North Carolina community colleges are offering free tuition for students this fall. Using a combination of federal, state, local, and philanthropic funding, these colleges are guaranteeing free tuition, and in many cases books and fees, for students regardless of financial need.

Many colleges see this as an opportunity to encourage new and returning students to enroll this fall.

At Forsyth Technical Community College, applications were up 829 compared to the same time last year. Southwestern Community College had 495 students apply for the free tuition program in the first 10 days.

Is your community college offering free tuition beyond the Longleaf Commitment Grant? We want to know!

Read the full article here

From early college to Ph.D. program at 20: Meet Mackenzie Dobson

Mackenzie Dobson is a former McDowell Early College student. Now, at just 20-years-old, Dobson is starting a Ph.D. program this fall in American Politics, Public Policy, and Research Methodology at the University of Virginia.

Dobson received both her high school diploma and associate degree in college transfer in May 2018. After graduating from McDowell Early College and McDowell Technical Community College, Dobson went on to study at Appalachian State University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in May 2020 and her Master of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in American Politics in May 2021.

“Objectively, attending McDowell Early College and McDowell Tech before transferring to a four-year university helped me acclimate to the university setting much faster than students who attend a traditional high school before enrolling in college as a freshman,” said Dobson.

Read more here

Around NC

NC State will receive $180,000 for a hardship fund. The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation created the fund to “increase its ongoing support of NC State’s Community College Collaboration (C3) program.” According to the press release, “Qualifying applicants are students who have transferred or will be transferring to NC State from one of the C3 program’s participating community colleges.”

As part of the TD Ready Challenge, TD Bank issued a call for proposals from organizations with “innovative solutions to address the predicted learning loss in math and reading for disproportionately impacted students in grades K-12 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Organizations can apply for grants ranging from USD $375,000 up to $1M which they can use over three years. Read more here

Central Piedmont Community College received a $10-million gift commitment from an anonymous donor. The gift will be used to transform CPCC’s role as a community resource for arts and humanities programming and learning. This is the single-largest individual donation the college has ever received.

Duke Energy awarded $615,000 in grants to 19 workforce development and education programs in North Carolina. Recipients of the grants include community colleges, HBCUs, and nonprofits.

Linda Lockman-Brooks becomes the first Black person and first woman to chair Central Piedmont Community College’s board of trustees.

The Better Skills. Better Jobs. campaign to attract adult learners is underway. Fayetteville Technical Community College shares about their efforts in this recent article.

Mitchell Community College received $1 million from Statesville residents Frank and Carol Childress. Their gift created an endowed scholarship fund through the Mitchell Community College Foundation and Endowment for Excellence. “The Childress’s gift was part of a record-setting fundraising year for the college and its foundation.”

Other higher education reads

The Transfer Reset: Rethinking Equitable Policy for Today’s Learners by the Tackling Transfer Policy Advisory Board

“Countless students would agree: transfer does not work. Despite sustained efforts to ‘fix’  transfer over the past several decades, the current system continues to produce dismal, inequitable outcomes and unnecessary roadblocks that thwart students’ educational goals.”

In a recent report from HCM Strategists, the Tackling Transfer Policy Advisory Board released clear recommendations for change when it comes to the transfer system.

The state, system, and federal policy recommendations span three interrelated areas:

  • Harnessing data for transformational change;
  • Maximizing credit applicability and recognition of learning; and
  • Advancing strategic finance and impactful student aid.

You can view their recommendations in this executive summary. The full report can be found here.

I Couldn't Afford Community College. Biden's Plan to Make it Free Would Be Dream Come True | Opinion

In this opinion article, Nahshon Blount discusses how Biden’s plan to make community college free would be a dream come true.

Blount is a North Carolina resident who previously attended Durham Tech before having to drop out.

“I started taking courses at Durham Tech Community College, where I was taking prerequisites to the nursing course, but I had to drop out. I couldn’t afford my expenses, and couldn’t afford to pay for school.”

You can read Blount’s opinion article here.

Things To Know Now About the Future of Nondegree Credentials

This article is a follow-up to the webinar hosted by Strada last week.

“Strada research released Wednesday found that 2 in 5 Americans hold a nondegree credential, and that they are especially valuable when combined with a college degree, particularly  an associate degree. Sixty-nine percent of nondegree credential holders with an associate degree report their education was worth the cost, compared to only 48 percent of individuals with an associate degree who do not have a nondegree credential.”

During the webinar, panelists discussed what the findings say about the value of nondegree credentials.

Some of their insights include:

  • Adding credentials to a bachelor’s or associate degree might be a norm of the future.
  • The timeline for completing nondegree credentials is less rigid and is changing the landscape of postsecondary education.
  • In the absence of an existing system from education providers, employers are starting to do the work of standardizing credentials and making them transferable.

Read the full article here.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.