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How did COVID-19 impact community college students?

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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.

We surveyed 5,000+ community college students to see how the pandemic impacted them… the ncIMPACT Initiative and myFutureNC announced 15 local educational attainment collaboratives… Republican leaders in the House and Senate have come to a spending agreement for the two-year budget… early colleges could be a model for pandemic recovery.

Hi, everyone! Molly here, taking over for Nation this week. A lot is happening in the education world, so let’s dive in.

The U.S. Department of Education just released Volume 3 of their COVID-19 Handbook, which is focused on higher education institutions. The handbook contains guidance on everything from getting students vaccinated to using American Rescue Plan funds and more. Click here to read the full handbook.

We got some good news last week from the legislature that Republican leaders in the House and Senate reached a spending agreement for the two-year budget. The agreement caps spending in the first year of the biennium (2021-22) at $25.7 billion and the second year at $26.7 billion, which represents a 3.45% and 3.65% spending increase, respectively. According to the press release from Moore and Berger, the agreement has “terms” that will include tax reductions but won’t include a bond or Medicaid expansion. Click here for the story from EdNC’s senior reporter Alex Granados.

Four community colleges have been selected by the ncIMPACT Initiative and myFutureNC to be part of a two-year pilot program to increase attainment of high-quality degrees or postsecondary credentials among local residents. These colleges will join 11 other groups to form the myFutureNC Local Attainment Collaboratives Network. Check out the list of all 15 community collaboratives here.

Thank you to all of the community colleges that sent out our student survey. Thanks to you, we had over 5,000 students participate in the survey! Yesterday we published my analysis of the results, which you can find here. In addition to reporting on student responses, I looked at how responses differed by gender, race/ethnicity, age, and courses the students are taking (curriculum, continuing education, or basic skills). Read more about the results below.

I’ll be at Wilson Community College on Wednesday. Follow me on Twitter for updates during my visit. 

Thanks for reading,

Molly Osborne

EdNC’s Director of News and Policy


EdNC reads

How has COVID-19 impacted North Carolina’s community college students?

Last year, EdNC surveyed North Carolina community college students to see how COVID-19 had impacted them. This spring, we sent a similar survey to all 58 community colleges to see how students are doing one year later.

Many of the 5,000+ community college students who responded to our survey reported they lost jobs, had trouble paying bills, struggled to pay for college, and were in a worse financial situation now compared to before the pandemic.

Half of respondents said they had a family member who tested positive for COVID-19, and 18% said they themselves contracted the virus.

Overall, students who were enrolled in continuing education or workforce development courses reported more challenges in pursuing their education as a result of the pandemic than those enrolled in curriculum courses. For example, continuing education students were more likely than curriculum students to enroll part-time instead of full-time due to the pandemic.

Despite these challenges, students were fairly evenly split in their preference for fully online learning, hybrid learning, or in-person learning. Unsurprisingly, continuing education students preferred in-person learning to hybrid or remote. When you look at it by age, students under the age of 18 preferred hybrid and in-person learning to virtual learning, whereas students ages 25-44 slightly preferred virtual learning.

Click here to see the full results

ncIMPACT Initiative and myFutureNC announce 15 local educational attainment collaboratives

Last week, the ncIMPACT Initiative, in partnership with myFutureNC, announced 15 community collaboratives that will be part of a two-year pilot program to increase attainment of high-quality degrees or postsecondary credentials among local residents.

The program, called the myFutureNC Local Educational Attainment Collaboratives, aligns with the statewide goal to ensure 2 million people ages 25-44 obtain a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030.

“These collaboratives offer an organized way to respond to future of work challenges that no single institution or even an entire sector can effectively tackle,” said Anita Brown-Graham, UNC professor and director of the ncIMPACT Initiative, in a press release. “We are eager to begin this important work together.”

Congratulations to Central Carolina, Central Piedmont, Sampson, and Surry community colleges for being among the 15 collaboratives selected!

Click here to see the 15 collaboratives

Budget moving forward after leadership compromise

Good news out of the General Assembly last week — there may be a budget after all. From EdNC reporter Alex Granados:

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have come to a spending agreement for the two-year budget.

Much of the talk at the General Assembly for the last few weeks has been about a failure among Republican leaders in the House and Senate to come to a spending agreement to allow them to move ahead with a comprehensive budget in their respective chambers. With only weeks left until the end of the fiscal year (which ends June 30), the news provides hope that there won’t be a repeat of 2019 when the state had to move forward without a regular two-year spending plan in place.

The agreement is that spending in the first year of the biennium (2021-22) is capped at $25.7 billion and the second year is capped at $26.7 billion. According to a press release, those spending amounts represent a 3.45% and 3.65% spending increase, respectively.

Click here for the story

Early colleges are a potential ‘test case’ for expanding postsecondary success

Two weeks ago, early college educators gathered virtually for the Early College Summit hosted by RTI International. EdNC’s Liz Bell reported on what they learned and what’s next for early colleges.

“I think we’re at an inflection point now with early colleges in North Carolina,” said Isaac Lake, a consultant for the Department of Public Instruction’s Division of Advanced Learning and Gifted Education. “I’m sensing that we need to reconnect with who we serve, why, and how, and lift up what’s really working, and then continue to tell our stories — both individually where we are and collectively across the state and across the country.”

One panel explored the idea of expanding the early college model to serve more students.

“I think we might all have a larger responsibility to thinking about how we can re-envision the education system so that it can work for more students,” said Julie Edmunds, program director for secondary school reform at the SERVE Center.

Nina Arshavsky, a senior research specialist at the SERVE Center, outlined policy supports that could help states expand the early college model: clear definitions of early colleges and a process to authorize them; financial commitments from multiple institutions; more opportunities for students to take college-level courses in high school and to transfer them between institutions; and intermediary organizations that support early college networks.

Important design principles to scale up early colleges, Arshavsky said, include strong postsecondary partnerships with clearly articulated agreements, curriculum requirements and pathways, and college readiness supports for students.

Read more here

Around NC

A bill that would allow individuals who complete just one semester of teacher preparation classes at a community college to become high school “adjunct instructors” passed the House and Senate and awaits Gov. Cooper’s signature or veto. Read more about it in the News & Observer’s piece here.

The Burlington Times News published an op-ed from Alamance Community College’s Board of Trustees chairperson, Roslyn Crisp, who argues for increasing community college faculty and staff salaries.

The Sampson Independent highlighted president Stith’s recent visit to Sampson Community College. Read the piece here.

The Charlotte Observer looks at why Central Piedmont Community College’s enrollment is down and what the college is doing to attract students.

Several local news outlets published stories recently about the Longleaf Commitment and Longleaf Complete. Here’s one from the Goldsboro Daily News, and here’s one from the Stanly News & Press.


Other higher education reads

U.S. Department of Education releases Ed COVID-19 Handbook

The Dept. of Education has released Volume 3 of their COVID-19 Handbook, which provides guidance to institutions of higher education (IHEs) on keeping students, faculty, and staff healthy and recovering from the pandemic. According to the Handbook, Volume 3 addresses the following topics:

  • Practices to aid IHEs in implementing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) and resources by identifying common prevention strategies and providing examples of actions IHEs can take with HEERF grant funding;
  • Institutional responses to ongoing challenges and potentially lasting impacts on underserved populations including supporting the provision of basic needs or the sudden transition to online learning;
  • Ways in which IHEs have already been and can continue to be sources of support to their communities’ ongoing response and recovery from the pandemic;
  • A catalog of the resources and administrative flexibilities offered to IHEs as they address rapidly changing conditions and needs on the ground, including resources that support both students and IHEs under the ARP.

Read the full handbook here.

Effective Practices That Support Adult Learners

The American Council on Education released a new search tool where you can find various practices and programs to support adult learners. From their website:

“The following programs and services exemplify how institutions can support adult learners’ life circumstances, work to identify their long-term goals, and prepare them to be more competitive in the labor market. This overview of effective practices also highlights relevant research on programs and services that are beneficial to adult learners, and includes examples of how institutions have adapted these practices to increase the success of their adult students.”

Biden’s infrastructure plan would create plenty of jobs, but who will do them?

The Hechinger Report looks at the demand for infrastructure workers that would be exacerbated if President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan becomes law and notes the importance of community colleges in solving this shortage:

“[Community] colleges are chronically underfunded and often unable to match private-sector salaries or train students using modern technology. These challenges have been compounded by huge enrollment declines during the pandemic.

“The number of students in community colleges is down by 11 percent this spring, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

“While the enrollment decline is concerning, the ‘biggest challenge is finding qualified instructors and getting equipment,’ Barry said. ‘We need to make sure we’re not putting in front of them equipment that’s 10 or 15 years old. And a lot of times if we’re wanting somebody [to teach] with 20-plus years of experience, we can’t afford them.’”

Molly Osborne

Molly Osborne is the director of news and policy for EducationNC.