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Dr. Jeff Cox named president of N.C. Community College System

A note from us

Hello, Emily here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed last week’s, you can read it by clicking here.

Dr. Jeff Cox was named president of the N.C. Community College System… Gov. Cooper visited Central Carolina Community College to discuss workforce development ahead of VinFast’s facility opening… Bill outlining the overhaul of community college governance to move forward… More updates on other bills impacting North Carolina community colleges…

Last week was a busy one for North Carolina’s community colleges.

On Friday, the State Board of Community Colleges voted to appoint Dr. Jeff Cox as the System’s 11th president. Yesterday, a press conference was held to officially introduce Cox as the new president. Leaders in attendance included Gov. Roy Cooper, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, and Christopher Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. Check out this tweet thread for more on the press conference.

Cox is a native of Alleghany County and has three decades of academic and leadership experience, including as a teacher, superintendent, and most recently as president of Wilkes Community College. Be sure to read Nation’s write-up on the announcement for more on Cox’s leadership through the years and a recap of the presidential search process.

You can also listen to initial comments from Cox after the Board’s vote on Friday, about his vision for the future – plus, a special thank you message to his wife, Reba, for her support.

Gov. Cooper visited Central Carolina Community College last week to tour the Moore Solutions Center, a site that will be used to train those who will work for VinFast – an electric car company that announced North Carolina as the location for its North America manufacturing facility. VinFast started in Vietnam and each year plans to produce 150,000 cars in North Carolina. The production facility will create 7,500 jobs for the state. When it was announced last year, Cooper said it was the state’s first car manufacturing plant and the largest economic development announcement in North Carolina’s history. 

During his remarks, Cooper commented on the big role community colleges play in training individuals for the jobs coming to North Carolina. 

 “I am so glad to be here today to celebrate this facility, all the good things that are going to be happening here. The people who are going to learn things to help them get a good paying job, making more money than they thought that they would be able to make supporting their family. Helping our area grow and prosper. Once again, our community colleges come to the rescue. And we’re grateful for that,” Cooper said.

You can read more about Cooper’s visit here.

The Senate’s higher education committee also met last week to discuss Senate Bill 692  – a bill that would overhaul governance within the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS). The rules committee gave a favorable report to SB692. The bill will now go before the Senate. You can read the full article here. 

The Community College House Education Committee will meet on Thursday at 11 a.m. to discuss House Bill 601. The bill is an act to “direct the State Board of Community Colleges to study and report on options for improving the current funding model and accountability measures for community colleges.” Stay tuned for more on the bills impacting community colleges.

Last week also included a night to recognize individuals throughout the community college system for their achievements and dedication to the system – including two students. Read more about Randolph Community College student Kassandra Ciriza Monreal, and graduate of Wake Technical Community College, Khadijah Scarborough

EdNC’s Rupen Fofaria also recapped last week’s meeting with members of North Carolina’s 10 accredited historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and state senators and representatives. The NC10 celebrated legislative day and addressed the legislature’s bipartisan, bicameral HBCU caucus.  

Several EdNC team members will be in Wilkes County later this week for the release of our first full-length documentary. Former EdNC team member, Robert Kinlaw, along with Mebane Rash, produced the hour-long documentary about MerleFest – a music festival and fundraiser hosted by Wilkes Community College. Here’s a sneak peek of the film

Don’t know much about MerleFest? Check out last year’s write-up about the festival. And follow me on Twitter as I live tweet from the event later this week. 

With gratitude – 

Emily Thomas – Policy Analyst 


EdNC reads

Jeff Cox named president of N.C. Community College System

Jeff Cox, the president of Wilkes Community College and a former superintendent, was officially named the 11th president of the North Carolina Community College system on April 21, 2023.

Cox was chosen out of a semi-finalist pool that included several current or former college presidents, elected representatives, and former system executives from North Carolina who served in prominent roles in other systems across the country.

Stakeholders surveyed favored the selection of a sitting president of a community college in North Carolina given the need for stable system leadership, the economic impact of community colleges; the critical, all-encompassing role community colleges play in their community; and the slew of bills filed affecting everything from accreditation to funding to governance.

Nation’s write-up talks about Cox’s background in education and the State Board of Community College’s search process that started last fall.

Read the full story here. 

Governor visits community college to discuss training ahead of VinFast facility opening

Gov. Roy Cooper visited Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) last Wednesday to discuss workforce development training for VinFast – the Vietnamese auto manufacturer set to build a line of electric vehicles in North Carolina in the coming years.

Last year, Cooper announced VinFast’s selection of North Carolina as its first North American automotive assembly plant that would create 7,500 jobs. According to the March 2022 press release, this is the state’s first car manufacturing plant and the largest economic development announcement in North Carolina’s history.

VinFast plans to produce 150,000 vehicles every year.

“Those vehicles, and a lot more models, will be built by the students who are going to be trained by Central Carolina,” said Van Anh Nguyen, CEO of VinFast North America.

The jobs coming to the state, including those VinFast will create, requires an investment in the workforce, which means an investment in education, Cooper said.

“It means investing in child care – which is the triple play – because, one, it gives the children a quality early childhood education which we know is so important. Two, it allows that parent to work to bring income into the family. And three, it gives that employer a great employee who might otherwise not be able to be in the workforce at a time when we need to be strengthening our workforce,” Cooper said.

Cooper went on to say that community colleges have a big role to play in this training.

You can read the full story here. 

Bill proposing governance overhaul of community college system moves forward

Last week, the Senate’s higher education committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would overhaul the governance structure of North Carolina community colleges.

Senate Bill 692 would give the system president and Republican-led General Assembly more power. In turn, the bill would reduce the authority of the State Board of Community Colleges and take power away from the governor and local leaders.

Two amendments were made to the bill. The first amendment included two technical corrections.

“The second amendment, proposed by Sen. Bobby Hanig, R-Bertie, included two changes. First, that the system president can only dismiss local presidents due to causes listed in their contract – a new power – and that local presidents can appeal such dismissals. Second, that local boards of trustees can choose to include a student representative on their board.”

The rules committee gave a favorable report to SB692 Thursday morning. Now, the bill will go before the Senate.

Hannah’s article highlights comments made by the bill’s sponsors and from critics of the bill. The write-up also includes other legislation impacting community colleges, like HB601, a bill that would require a study and report on improving the accountability and funding model for community colleges.

Click here to read more.

General Assembly’s HBCU caucus hears from leaders of the NC10

Members of North Carolina’s 10 accredited historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) met with state senators and representatives on Tuesday, as the 10 accredited HBCUs in the state, or the NC10, celebrated a legislative day and addressed the legislature’s bipartisan, bicameral HBCU caucus.

More than a dozen legislators attended to hear representatives from the NC10 talk about legislative needs, which focused on funding. As the state with the most four-year HBCUs in the nation, legislators spoke about the importance of leveraging these institutions for a brighter future.

“The mission of our HBCU caucus, of course, is to inform and educate people about all of our HBCUs and then to encourage collaboration,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, a co-chair of the HBCU caucus. “And that is what today is about.”

As a collective, the 10 institutions coalesce around legislative asks to modernize infrastructure, support key academic programs, and invest in student success. But each institution has unique legislative priorities.

You can read about each institution’s legislative priorities here. 

Around NC

In this EdNC perspective, Ferrel Guillory shared his thoughts on what’s at stake for community colleges this long session.

Super senior and scholar at Edgecombe Early College High School, Joshua Webb, wrote about community colleges’ teacher preparation program and how it will raise awareness and attract strong candidates. Read his EdNC perspective here. 

Robeson Community College hosted a waffles and resume day to help students prepare for an upcoming career fair day. Students received – you guessed it – waffles, along with help on their resumes and clothing selection ahead of the career fair. 

McDowell Technical Community College will add a new 911 Communications and Operations program. In November, the State Board of Community Colleges first approved Richmond Community College to offer the program, which was new to the system.

Submissions for the North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching and Innovation (NCCCJTI) are due Saturday, April 29. Find out more here. 

Mitchell Community College is hosting a Cars on Campus Fundraiser on Saturday, April 29. The event is led by Mitchell’s Student Government and will raise funds for My Sister’s House – a program that helps victims of domestic violence. 

Cape Fear Community College and UNC Wilmington recently established a transfer agreement for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in oceanography.

Other higher education reads

Two Community Colleges That Reimagined the Student Experience Share the Top Aspen Prize

The Aspen Institute awarded its $1-million prize to two community colleges this year – Amarillo and Imperial Valley. You can read the full article here.

At a time when community colleges nationally are struggling with declining enrollment and disappointing completion rates, two community colleges serving large rural sections of Texas and California are seeing impressive gains. On Thursday, Amarillo and Imperial Valley shared top honors at an awards ceremony in Washington, winning the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The $1-million prize, which the Aspen Institute has awarded every two years since 2011, is based on graduation and transfer rates, placement in decent-paying jobs, student learning, and equitable outcomes for low-income and minority students. The prize will be split between the two winners, and the competition is intended to highlight replicable models and practices for other colleges seeking to improve student outcomes.

Last year, the Aspen Institute added a semifinalist milestone to their award, narrowing the 150 institutions selected to apply to 25 semifinalists. North Carolina’s Southwestern Community College was one of the 25 selected. You can read our story about SCC here.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.