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Community colleges celebrate $19.3 billion economic impact

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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.

Community college system celebrates $19.3 billion annual economic impact…Updates from the State Board of Community Colleges April meeting…Dr. Kenneth Boham will be interim president at Johnston Community College…Gov. Cooper announces $27 million for new Summer Accelerator grant program…

Good morning,

It was great to see so many community college leaders and Awake58 readers last week to celebrate the work of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges and their statewide economic impact. The event, hosted by the John M. Belk Endowment, featured remarks from Belk Endowment president and board chair MC Belk Pilon, State Board of Community Colleges chair Burr Sullivan, North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) chief of staff Dr. Kim Gold, state Sen. Deanna Ballard, and Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute president Dr. Mark Poarch.

“I just am proud to be a part of the work that’s going on,” Sen. Ballard said. “And I believe that our community college system is really going to be what drives North Carolina out of this pandemic and into full recovery.”

Labor analytics firm Emsi/Burning Glass found the NCCCS contributes about $19.3 billion to the state’s economy each year, supports 319,763 jobs, and employs 36,422 people. You can find the statewide report along with individual economic impact reports for each community college at the website

The State Board of Community Colleges announced Friday that Dr. Kenneth Boham will serve as interim president at Johnston Community College after current president, Dr. David Johnson, announced his resignation effective May 15th.

The State Board meeting featured updates on three concurrent processes: the Board’s self-assessment, the development of five goals for the system president, and the development of a new strategic plan. System President Thomas Stith gave his first update on each of the five goals developed by the Board for the system president at its March meeting.

The Board also heard from CampusWorks on the results of its organizational assessment of the system office and received a report from TaylorTrain on the results of a system office climate survey, although the Board did not release those results publicly. For more from Friday’s meeting, read Hannah McClellan’s reporting here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Wilson Community College and meet with students, staff, faculty, administrators and president Dr. Tim Wright, who recently announced he will retire in June 2023. When I asked Dr. Wright about the role of a community college president, he shared the following reflection on leadership:

“It’s not being a leader or being a president — those are the names — but what you’re really doing is every day I have to be better every day than I would normally in my life. I’ve got to be more thoughtful, make better decisions, be kinder… It calls you to be a better person than you normally would have to be. That’s what leadership is — being a better person.”

See more highlights from my visit on Twitter.

This week marks the last week of national community college month. Want to share your community college story? Tell us how community college has impacted you and what it means to you here.

Thank you for reading,

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Director of News and Policy —

EdNC reads

State Board of Community Colleges evaluates its role and the role of system president

The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges continued its self-evaluation process last week, approving a set of recommendations for the second phase of its three-year development and engagement plan at its April 22nd meeting.

The three primary recommendations established: a process and schedule for annual evaluation and goal setting for the system president, a stronger framework for Board engagement in the system’s strategic plan, and an increased understanding of the role and mission of the Board. The approval of those recommendations followed the Board’s development of five goals for the system president in March, during a closed-session meeting that lasted more than three hours.

The five goals for the system president are:

  1. Enhance team building, internal communications, and leadership development to improve hiring, retention, turnover, and morale.
  2. Strategy to enhance regular communications with Presidents, Board Members, and Legislators to inform them on the activities of the System Office.
  3. Frame a plan in collaboration with community colleges to address enrollment declines that promotes best practices and initiatives.
  4. Identify administrative and programmatic changes, including collaborations and reduction of red tape, to better support our colleges based on feedback from the presidents that was provided during listening sessions.
  5. Establish a platform for identifying and developing initiatives to support the stabilizations and advancement of rural colleges in light of the demographic and funding challenges that many of them face.

System President Thomas Stith gave his first update on those five goals at Friday’s meeting. Both Stith and Board Chair Burr Sullivan stressed that this was the start of the process.

“There’s a lot to reflect on,” Sullivan said. “I’m glad we have a capable Board that’s willing to roll their sleeves up, sit here for 4.5 hours, and do the work of our students.”

The Board also previously approved a $6,000 contract with training organization TaylorTrain to conduct a climate survey among community college system office staff. The Board received a summary of those results last week, Sullivan said, but doesn’t plan to present a public version of the findings.

The Board announced that Dr. Ken Boham will serve as interim president at Johnston Community College starting May 16, 2022.

Click here for the story

N.C. Community College System highlights $19.3 billion annual economic impact

An economic impact study presented to the State Board of Community Colleges last month found the NCCCS contributes about $19.3 billion to the state’s economy each year. The community college system supports 319,763 jobs and employs 36,422 people, according to the report from labor analytics firm Emsi/Burning Glass.

The study also indicates the system nearly doubles the revenue taken in from taxpayers, with taxpayers getting $1.90 back in added tax revenues and public sector savings for every dollar the state invests. And on average, the report shows that North Carolina community college students have a rate of return on their college investment of 22.3%.

At an event celebrating the results of the report on Wednesday, John M. Belk Endowment President and Board Chair MC Belk Pilon thanked community presidents and leaders for participating in the study. Each of the state’s 58 colleges submitted data for the project. Belk Pilon said the idea for the systemwide study came while discussing how to help presidents at a local level and state leaders alike better understand the value of community colleges.

Click here for the story

Brief | Could requiring FAFSA completion for all high school graduates help close the opportunity gap?

Natasha Lipscomb, vice president of student success services at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, shares her higher education story:

“Coming from a single parent household in a major urban city, the idea of college was overwhelming for me. My mother worked hard to pay our bills; and I could not bring myself to burden her with a conversation about college. My school counselor at our mostly Black high school, Willie Stroble, gave me no choice in the matter when it came to college.

I remember sitting in the guidance office completing college applications during my assigned time slot. My next task was to bring Mr. Stroble my mom’s tax forms. Stroble, with my mother’s permission, helped me complete my FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Shortly thereafter, I received an award letter in the mail from the U.S. Department of Education. I did not know fully what it meant, but it said I had money to go to college.

That letter was enough to encourage me to take the next step. Today, I am a first-generation college student who has earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and am in the last few semesters of a PhD program. Access to Pell Grants and scholarships through the FAFSA changed my life.”

Lipscomb goes on to share recommendations to increase North Carolina’s FAFSA completion rate, including requiring FAFSA completion for every high school student.

Click here for more

Around NC

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday $27 million in federal funding for the creation of a “Summer Accelerator” grant program to provide tuition assistance for postsecondary students to take summer courses. Here are the details, according to the press release:

“The Summer Accelerator grant program will provide grants up to $5,000 to cover tuition, fees, books, housing, and other expenses based on the number of summer courses a student is taking. To be eligible for a Summer Accelerator grant, a student must be a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes, enrolled in an academic program leading to a postsecondary degree or credential, and be working towards their first postsecondary degree or credential. Funds will be available for students who take courses during the summer of 2022 and 2023. Students interested in the program should contact their college’s financial aid office.”

The Johnston County Report has a story out on the resignation of Johnston Community College president, Dr. David Johnson, effective May 15, 2022.

The North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation has issued a call for submissions for its second issue. To submit a manuscript, email [email protected] by April 29th.

Lowe’s has invested $500,000 in Sampson Community College to “improve student access to construction and home improvement programs,” according to the Sampson Independent.

Central Piedmont Community College and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina are partnering to develop a “more diverse and inclusive talent pool of trained and licensed individuals for the insurance production and sales industry,” according to a press release. Central Piedmont will use the funding to provide scholarships to 26 students per year for five years.

Ten students completed their commercial driver’s license (CDL) certification in March thanks to Halifax Community College and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s truck driver training program partnership.

Martin Community College and Roanoke-Chowan Community College are partnering together to expand nursing program options for Martin Community College students. Read more here.

NC Tech Paths, a new nonprofit that launched in January 2022, recently purchased the Wilkes Journal-Patriot newspaper building in downtown North Wilkesboro to serve as a “Regional Tech Outpost” that will house technology employees, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and more. The nonprofit is partnering with Wilkes Community College and Per Scholas.

Lawrence Rouse, president of Pitt Community College, recently published an op-ed in The Daily Advance celebrating the “normalization of sending kids to community colleges after high school.”

The Wilson Times published a feature on the artistry of Wilson Community College’s welding students. Read it here.

The Hunt Institute is hosting a webinar titled, “Postsecondary Pathways | Attainment for All: Using Disaggregated Data to Close Equity Gaps,” on May 12th at 2:00 p.m. Register here.

Other higher education reads

Employers Claim to Value Alternative Credentials. Do Their Practices Match Their Promises?

EdSurge’s Rebecca Koenig looks at new research published by the Society for Human Resource Management that found that “even though executives say they support alternative credentials, the practices and attitudes of mid-level managers and HR professionals do not always value these upstart certifications.” What does that mean for the value of alternative credentials?

Stress Still Driving Students to Consider Stopping Out

A survey of 11,227 U.S. adults conducted last fall found that “three-fourths of students in bachelor’s degrees programs and two-thirds of adults seeking associate degrees who considered taking a break from college within the last six months cited emotional stress.” See the report from Gallup and Lumina Foundation here.

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and Chief Operating Officer for EducationNC.