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Using federal relief dollars to close the gap

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 – your weekly round-up of the latest community college news from across North Carolina and the country. Our last edition featured the NCCCS presidential search committee, free daycare for children of Durham Tech students, and economic impact stories from Mitchell, Pitt, and Durham Tech. You may read it by clicking here. 

The NCCCS presidential search committee will meet this week… The 2023-24 FAFSA is open… Impact58 stories from Montgomery, Richmond, and McDowell Tech… The NCCCS conference kicks off Oct. 9… A profile on Shaw University…

Happy October Awake58 readers. It’s that time of year that finally begins to feel and look like fall – with shades of orange, red, and yellow peeping through the green leaves. 

October also marks the beginning of the FAFSA cycle. Hannah’s piece about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid provides guidance and highlights updates, including information on the Longleaf Commitment Grant.

The search for the next NCCCS president is underway. A presidential search committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 9:00 a.m. You can view the agenda here.

EdNC will be joining many of you at this year’s System Office Conference. Be sure to drop by our table and say hello, and join our welcome reception on Monday.

We have several Impact58 stories in this week’s edition. Mebane writes about McDowell Technical Community College’s use of federal funds to pay for tuition and fees, Liz lifts up the work at Richmond Community College to end cycles of poverty, and Dean talks about all things taxidermy and economic impact at Montgomery Community College

If you follow along, you know that EdNC team members have been traversing the state these past few months. Of the 58 community colleges, we’ve completed 31 Impact58 visits! And we have a full travel schedule this week with more Impact58 tours. Team members will be visiting Rockingham, Davidson-Davie, Carteret, Haywood, and Rowan-Cabarrus. We also have several team members heading to the western part of the state visiting Macon, Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Swain, and Jackson counties. 

In case you missed it on Twitter, check out the John M. Belk Endowment’s visit last week to Robeson Community College. 

Want to stay in the loop? Look for our stories from the road on Twitter at @Awake58NC. And, as always, you can find all of our community college content on

With gratitude, 

Emily Thomas 

Policy Analyst – 

EdNC reads

The 2023-24 FAFSA opens Oct. 1. What do I need to know?

Here’s a look at what you need to know about FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Oct. 1 was the first day students could complete the 2023-24 application. The form is open until June 30, 2024 on a rolling basis.

Here’s what you should know about FAFSA submissions through the years.

A third of high school seniors nationwide don’t submit the FAFSA, leaving an estimated $3.4 billion in aid on the table each year. Students who complete the FAFSA can seek more aid opportunities, and they’re also more likely to enroll in higher education, according to a 2020 report by Education Strategy Group (ESG). Among students who complete the FAFSA, 90% attend college directly after high school, compared to 55% of students who don’t complete the FAFSA.

Read more about FAFSA updates.

At McDowell Tech, economic mobility is the impact

McDowell Technical Community College has an annual economic impact of $67.8 million, including $12 million in operations spending, $1.1 million in student spending, and $54.7 million in alumni impact.

Billboards around the county that say “tuition free until 2023” tell you even more about the impact of this community college, and they are catching the eye of students and workers who want to “learn and grow,” the hashtag of the college’s new strategic plan.

Goal one of McDowell Tech’s strategic plan is access: “We will expand learning opportunities and remove barriers to enrollment.”

“On May 25, 2021, McDowell Tech announced the Learn and Grow Scholarship Program, which according to the press release, “effectively eliminates one of the most significant barriers to college attendance: cost.”

You can read how McDowell Tech is using federal funds to pay for tuition and fees here.


Montgomery Community College: At the center of it all

According to a recent economic impact report, MCC’s impact on the small county (Montgomery County has about 26,000 residents) is notable. MCC added $24.4 million in income to the county economy in 2019-20 — nearly as much on its own as the impact the entire wholesale trade industry has on the county.

In terms of jobs, this means MCC supported about 560 county jobs, or one out of every 22 jobs in the county.

What some may not know is that much of Montgomery county is covered by the Uwharrie National Forest – 50,000 acres to be exact. Montgomery Community College sits against the national forest on 150 acres alongside a career and technical education center and the county’s only high school.

The choice to centralize these major educational hubs may seem natural for a county at the center of it all, but it’s also strategic.

Read more here.

Responding to industry needs at Richmond Community College

This piece on Richmond Community College discusses putting industry demand and community needs at the forefront.

The college is working to place industry demand at the forefront of all of its offerings, said RCC President Dale McInnis. Knowing there is “light at the end of the tunnel,” McInnis said, plus a personalized experience with faculty, helps students succeed.

RCC serves Richmond and Scotland Counties, which are both considered Tier 1, a designation the state Department of Commerce gives to the most economically distressed counties.

“It’s all about breaking that cycle of poverty,” McInnis said.

Providing opportunities for economic mobility in the area is personal to McInnis, who grew up on a Richmond County farm — and whose family has been in the county since 1790.

Plus, learn about Bill Frye, an HVACR instructor for Richmond Community College.

Check out the story here.

Shaw University builds off of legacy with an eye toward transformation — for students and the institution

Shaw University is a private university based in Raleigh. The university serves over 1,300 undergraduate students annually. Shaw’s rich history includes the noteworthy fact that it was the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to offer courses in the southern United States.

This profile on Shaw University highlights the college’s rich history and discusses how the institution is moving forward with innovation.

Learn more about Shaw University. 

Around NC

Registration is still open for the Dallas Herring Lecture. Click here to register

Atrium Health brings Meaningful Medicine program to Central Piedmont Community College – opening a community-based virtual clinic.  

Mitchell Community College announced the selection of Randy Ledford as the new Vice President for Learning. Ledford most recently served as Vice President for Instruction at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute.  

Vance-Granville Community College will host a regional conference for employers and business leaders, giving them an opportunity to learn about techniques and innovations they can implement in their organizations. The conference is scheduled for Oct. 20 at Vance-Granville. 

Wilkes Community College expands information technology partnerships allowing students to add new certifications. 

Central Carolina Community College hired its first Biotechnology Pathway Navigator. The new role provides students with career development resources and industry connections. 

SECU Foundation provided funding for up to 30 local students to receive Bridge to Career scholarships to attend Lenoir Community College. SECU Foundation funding for NCCCS totals over $1.6 million annually.  

Wake Technical Community College awarded more than 300 student scholarships, totaling $447,204, for the 2022-23 academic year. 

Laila Chambers is the first student at Cleveland Early College High School to graduate with a high school diploma, associate degree, and a certified nursing assistant credential. 

Halifax Community College to hold its first Hispanic Heritage Month ceremony Thursday, Oct. 6. 

Davidson-Davie Community College student seeks the highest Girl Scout award and constructs a therapeutic garden at The Dragonfly Children’s Advocacy Center in Mocksville. 

Other higher education reads

College Mental Health Supports Reduce Suicide Risk 84% in LGBTQ Students

LGBTQ students whose college or university provides mental health services had 84% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year than those who had no access, according to a new brief from The Trevor Project. And while the vast majority, 86%, reported that their college offers such services, a significant number of students cited barriers to access.

This piece from The 74 highlights the importance of mental health services and access on college campuses.

In August, EdNC published a piece on student retention that highlighted student survey results from North Carolina community college students. One of the findings showed, collectively, N.C. community college students wanted more access to mental health services. You may read the piece here. 

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.