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Community colleges push for priorities as politicians debate the state budget

A note from us

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.

The State Board of Community Colleges approved a new marketing effort aimed at spreading the word on the new Longleaf Commitment… System president Thomas Stith pitched the House Appropriations committee on the system priorities last week… Wayne Community College president Thomas Walker is leaving the college to head to the UNC system… ICYMI, our podcast on faculty pay is worth a listen…

Community college will become more affordable for many students across the state through the newly announced Longleaf Commitment. The Longleaf Commitment will provide qualifying students with “at least $2,800 in federal and state grants to cover tuition and most fees at any of the state’s 58 community colleges,” according to the recent announcement from Gov. Roy Cooper.

The big question for the 58 colleges: How do we get the word out to prospective students?

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week to approve a new marketing effort designed to spread the word on the Longleaf Commitment. The campaign will need to get underway quickly.

The system office was busy last week as system president Thomas Stith also presented on the system’s legislative priorities to the House appropriations committee. My colleague Alex Granados has the story:

Stith put a plug in for the value of the community college system and the need to provide the funding for the system’s priorities. He said that 77% of community college students are employed in North Carolina three years after graduation.

“We think it’s very critical to point out that not only does the community college system play a key role in educating, but they are also the ones staying in North Carolina,” he said.

He added that students who went to state community colleges between 2009 and 2019 make up 33% of North Carolina’s “wage earners.” He said their earnings add up to $59.9 billion. That was money made between 2019 and 2020, according to the Department of Commerce.

“When you’re asking yourself what is our return on investment … the community college system is producing the workforce that is reflected in our economy,” he said.

One key part of the system’s priorities is around faculty and staff pay. If you missed it, we released a podcast, Banking on a Raise, focused on personal stories and experiences with the issue. Wilkes Community College president Jeff Cox shared a story of faculty and staff having to work second jobs. “While nobody goes into education to get rich,” he said, “you shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty to serve in one of our community colleges.”

We would love to hear your own stories regarding faculty and staff compensation — as well as what you thought of the podcast once you give it a listen!

Thank you for reading Awake58 this week. We appreciate you.

See you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

‘We do not want to go back to normal.’ Here’s what education leaders prescribe to get students to and through college after COVID

COVID-19 has radically changed the lives of our students and added many more hurdles on the road to their educational goals. To help address those hurdles, EdNC hosted a virtual gathering on May 20: Pathways To and Through College.

Our panelists included Vance-Granville Community College president Rachel Desmarais.

The question our panelists tried to answer: As we recover from the pandemic, how can we best help students meet the new challenges and navigate the road to college and completion?

Among other topics, we discussed student success — with an emphasis on recruitment, retention, and remediation. Tim Renick, the leader of Georgia State University’s National Institute for Student Success, said Georgia State will target three groups of students this fall: traditional first-year students who went through 16 months of atypical experiences as they finished high school, students who stopped taking college classes last fall, and students who just finished their first year at Georgia State but have never stepped foot on campus. Renick recommended that other institutions of higher learning do the same.

You may watch the full video from the event here. Once you watch the video, we would be interested to hear how your local institution is considering helping students who have been through a strange year and a half get to and through college.

Click here for the video

Community colleges want to spread the word: Longleaf Commitment Grant will help students reach their goals

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week to approve a request to allocate funding for a marketing effort to get the word out about the Longleaf Commitment. This new grant will be funded with federal COVID-19 aid.

What is the Longleaf Commitment, you may ask? And who is eligible? My colleague Emily Thomas reports:

Intended to facilitate learning recovery, the Longleaf Commitment Grant program helps ensure that North Carolina high school graduates do not fall out of the education pipeline for good.

The grant guarantees that eligible students receive $700 to $2,800 per year, for a total of two years if they attend one of the state’s 58 community colleges.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Graduate from a North Carolina high school in 2021.

  • Be a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes.

  • Be a first-time college student (Career & College Promise and Early/Middle College High School students are eligible).

  • Enroll in a curriculum program during the 2021-22 academic year.

  • Enroll in at least 6 credit hours per semester.

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2021-22.

  • Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from $0 – $15,000.  (EFC is based upon student’s FAFSA determination).

  • Renew FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year and meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements of the college.

The State Board approved a marketing campaign to last between now and August. A budget of up to $725,000 was approved by the State Board.

What do you think of the Commitment? What do you think of the recent marketing efforts from the system? Reply directly to this email to let us know.

Click here for the story

Budget priorities, including faculty pay, promoted at legislature last week

System president Thomas Stith presented to the House appropriations committee last week. Chief among the priorities Stith mentioned was faculty and staff pay. From reporter Alex Granados:

Faculty pay increases have been a priority for the system for at least the last two years, due in part to the fact that since 2006, faculty salaries at North Carolina community colleges have ranked among the bottom 10 states every year but one. The lack of competitive pay means that the state’s community colleges lose faculty and staff to both the K-12 and University of North Carolina System, Stith said.

The system is asking for $60,098,240 in recurring dollars for a 5% salary bump for community college employees. Stith said it is just the beginning of what needs to be a long-term push.

“If we don’t start, you’re going to continue to see a drain in talent from the system,” he said.

EdNC has covered the faculty and staff pay issue from the beginning of our postsecondary coverage — including an in-depth faculty pay series we rolled out in 2020.

Last week we released a podcast — and an update on where faculty pay stands now:

Since 2006, faculty salaries at North Carolina community colleges have ranked among the bottom 10 states for every year but one. In the southeast region, the worst paying region in the country, North Carolina almost always ranks in the bottom half or bottom third.

“The third-largest system should not be at the bottom 10 at any given time,” said David Shockley, president of Surry Community College.

In 2017-18, the latest year for which the Southern Regional Education Board has published data, the average full-time community college instructor in North Carolina earned $49,549, which was less than the corresponding salaries paid in all but seven states.

For the remainder of our coverage around faculty and staff pay, check out our website.

Click here for our legislative recap

Around NC

We’ve heard from a lot of our readers regarding recent news around developmental education and North Carolina community colleges. In case you missed the news, the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents recently voted to discontinue the systemwide implementation of RISE, a corequisite remedial education model. Corequisite models allow students to take courses for college credit while they take remedial courses. This move does not prohibit colleges from utilizing a corequisite model — but rather allows them to select a method of their own design.

We would like to remind you of our series around RISE in case you are curious about the backstory. You may click here to give it a read.

Carteret Community College will host the grand opening of their North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) this week. As the local media reports, “The role of the NCMBC is to identify contract opportunities, source them to businesses across the state and provide one-on-one assistance to help businesses in the region compete for, win and grow jobs through federal contracts.”

Cleveland Community College is pushing forward with their expansion into athletics as they break ground on the new Yeti Athletics Park.

Isothermal Community College named Greg Thomas as their new chief academic officer.

Johnston Community College’s truck driving program was featured by WRAL recently for their efforts to combat the truck driver shortage.

Wayne Community College’s president, Thomas A. Walker, Jr., announced his resignation on June 1. Emily Thomas has the story in her piece from the recent State Board meeting: “Walker accepted the position of senior advisor for economic development and military affairs for the University of North Carolina System. He will also serve as a liaison between the UNC System and North Carolina Community College System.”

The Goldsboro Daily News also featured the news around Walker’s departure. As always, we will cover the presidential search for the college.

Other higher education reads

Transfer rates tumble at two-year colleges

Inside Higher Ed has a spotlight out now on a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center looking at transfer data across the community college space:

Across the board, transfer enrollment declined by nearly 10 percent this spring when compared to the same time last year, the report said. This decline is concentrated in transfer pathways to and between two-year institutions. Transfer enrollment among two-year colleges — called lateral transfer — fell by 13.8 percent this spring.

Reverse transfer enrollment, defined as transfers from a four-year institution to a two-year institution, declined by 18 percent year over year, according to the report. Prior to the pandemic, reverse transfer rates had been on the rise, said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the clearinghouse.

This stands in contrast to a slight uptick in the transfer rate of two-year students heading to four-year universities.

REPORT | The Cost of Economic and Racial Injustice in Postsecondary Education

The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University is out with a report looking at what they term “the rising costs of inequality” in the education sector. I would encourage you to dig in on the data as it raises interesting questions for our efforts to bolster attainment in North Carolina and beyond:

Our simulation found that the US economy misses out on $956 billion per year, along with numerous nonmonetary benefits, as a result of postsecondary attainment gaps by economic status and race/ethnicity. The Cost of Economic and Racial Injustice in Postsecondary Education finds that closing these gaps would require an initial public investment of at least $3.97 trillion, but the benefits would outweigh the costs over time. Equalizing educational attainment without increasing student debt for low-income adults could also boost GDP by a total of $764 billion annually.

You can read the whole report by clicking here.

For some former college students, the pandemic opened a door to finish their degrees

I have spent a lot of time recently meeting with postsecondary leaders in North Carolina and beyond discussing what the fall might look like for colleges as they try to shift enrollment trends, decide how to allocate federal dollars, and more. One big item of discussion has been targeted outreach to former students. The Washington Post just published a look at this trend that is worth your time — in part because the economic recovery as the pandemic recedes in America is uneven:

“A college degree is more valuable than it even was before the pandemic,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, which focuses on expanding access to postsecondary education. For example, just 7,000 of the 916,000 jobs added back by the economy in March went to adults with high school diplomas but no college degree.

Check out the full piece for an analysis of re-enrollment and targeting efforts among institutions across the country.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.