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I've traveled to all 58 of our community colleges!

A note from us

Pitt Community College named the semifinalists for their college presidency… Economists take a look at state and local funding for community colleges across several states, including our own… Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood penned a perspective on the cyber workforce…

Hello! Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. Nation here.

On Monday, my travels brought me to Roanoke-Chowan Community College, marking a significant milestone: I have now officially visited all 58 of our community colleges.

This visit was particularly special, not only for its location, but also because it completed my personal journey across our Great 58. As a team, EdNC has visited all 58 colleges twice during our two blitzes. I spent time at 53 colleges as part of Blue Cross NC’s Extra Miles Tour, and alongside the John M. Belk Endowment, I have visited 47 colleges to date. Thanks to Roanoke-Chowan Community College President Dr. Murray Williams and her team hosting me, I can now proudly say I have set foot on at least one campus at each of our 58. I am working on article related to my visit and my past travel. Stay tuned!

Last week, I had the good fortune to visit three of our community colleges. We explored a variety of programs, including Fayetteville Technical and Wayne community colleges’ efforts to support active-duty military and veterans transitioning to civilian life. We also examined Fayetteville Tech’s initiatives to bolster Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion and promote the Next NC scholarship. Additionally, we spent a day exploring Davidson-Davie Community College’s work on nursing and allied health apprenticeships, along with philanthropists and business leaders from across the state.

A common theme from all our visits was the pivotal role community colleges play in meeting unique community needs. As one college leader remarked, as colleges strive to move at the “speed of business,” they are more responsive than most educational institutions, whether in response to industry or community demands.

Scroll down for news from “Around NC,” including the semifinalist list for Pitt Community College’s new president, the return on investment (ROI) of Winston-Salem State University, and more.

If you missed last week’s Awake58, you can find it on our website. We featured a special report from the NC Rural Center highlighting population gains in rural communities.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Chief of Growth —

EdNC reads

Research | Following the money: State and local funding for community colleges in the Fifth District of the Federal Reserve

Economists Laura Ullirch and Stephanie Norris take a look at state and local funding for community colleges across the Federal Reserve’s Fifth District, which includes Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, most of West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

All of the data is worth spending time on, but I wanted to highlight this specific portion:

Outreach to community colleges across the Fifth District indicates that the cost structure of community colleges is undergoing a transformation, which is leading to financial stress among institutions. Student demand is moving away from traditional associate degree programs, which are generally the lowest cost for schools to offer, and toward high-demand technical programs, such as nursing, welding, and mechatronics. These programs require expensive equipment and faculty that earn higher wages than many other community college instructors. In addition, community colleges are now providing a much broader set of wraparound services than the past, ranging from mental health counseling to food pantries. In most cases, funding formulas have not been adjusted for this new reality, although it’s important to note that North Carolina currently has a proposed funding formula under consideration that would be a big step in that direction.

Many community college leaders feel resource constrained in ways that seem different from their four-year counterparts. This could get worse over time as student demand at community colleges shifts to high-cost technical programs. The cost of executing these programs is ever-increasing, and it far outweighs the cost of teaching traditional general education courses. As these changes occur, the gap between instruction costs at community colleges and four-year institutions is likely narrowing considerably.

Community colleges have the need and desire to offer high-demand, high-wage programs while also remaining a very low-cost option for students in their service areas. With large revenue gaps between community colleges and four-year institutions, this is a precarious balance as community colleges strive to be an attractive option to students, employers, and staff.

You’ll find the full piece on

Perspective | Building the cyber workforce pipeline

In March, I visited Blue Ridge Community College’s horticultural program to learn more about their upcoming state-of-the-art greenhouse. Prior to my visit, I did not know how much technology is built into greenhouses in 2024. Last week, we published a perspective from Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood that includes a spotlight on their work building out the cyber workforce pipeline, including an emphasis on agriculture.

Our college is also part of the Carolina Cyber Network, a collaborative cyber workforce development initiative involving 17 higher education institutions that enrolled 2,887 cyber programs students in 2023. Within the network, Blue Ridge has the unique responsibility of providing cybersecurity training around North Carolina’s No. 1 industry — agriculture.

“When it comes to agriculture, most people don’t immediately think about technology, but the truth is, agriculture is full of technology,” Blue Ridge Community College IT Faculty Coordinator Dan Rickert explained. “Tractors, plows, drones that spray pesticide — all of this equipment relies on satellite data and over-the-air updates to software. All of that is vulnerable and can be circumvented by the bad guys.”

In the coming year, Blue Ridge’s IT and cybersecurity students will work closely in the development of the college’s new 4,727 sq. ft. state-of-the-art greenhouse, which will be used for instruction in technology-centered agricultural methods. The greenhouse will be automated and full of sensors, which according to IT instructor Tonya Stephens, provides a real-world opportunity for troubleshooting and safeguarding this critical sector.

For the remainder of President Leatherwood’s perspective, head over to our website.

Around NC

ROI at Winston-Salem State | North Carolina’s state legislature recently requested and funded a report evaluating the return on investment (ROI) of programs within the UNC System. The final report was released in February, according to an article from my colleague Derick Lee. His review specifically spotlights the ROI provided by Winston-Salem State University.

The cost of a lack of child care | Insufficient child care is costing North Carolina about $5.65 billion each year, a new study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimates. EdNC’s Liz Bell has the full story on

An update on the state budget | The Charlotte Observer takes a look at what will happen to some state employees’ pay on July 1 without a new budget. The House has said it expects to release its budget proposal this week. Stay tuned for EdNC’s coverage.

Semifinalists for new Pitt CC president | Pitt Community College announced the semifinalists for their presidency last week. The finalists are: Roger W. Davis, Ed.D., president of Community College of Beaver County, PA; Maria Pharr, Ed.D., president of South Piedmont Community College; and Nicole Reaves, Ed.D., executive vice president and chief programs officer at Wake Technical Community College.

Each of the three finalists will participate in forums this week:

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 — Dr. Nicole Reaves: 3:00 p.m., Davenport Multipurpose Room, Goess Student Center

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 — Dr. Roger W. Davis: 3:00 p.m., Davenport Multipurpose Room, Goess Student Center

Thursday, June 20, 2024 — Dr. Maria Pharr: 3:00 p.m., Davenport Multipurpose Room, Goess Student Center

For more on the process, check out the college’s presidential search website.

Summer youth apprenticeship program | Wayne Community College and Lenoir Community College held a kickoff for their new summer youth apprenticeship program. According to local media: “The inaugural Advanced Manufacturing Academy, launched by the Southeastern Education and Economic Development (SEED) initiative, was created through the NC Business Committee for Education (NCBCE). A total of 35 students will be participating in the academy at the two schools.”

Other tidbits:

  • GoldenLEAF announced $14 million in funding at their most recent board meeting.
  • The Davidson Local covered the Next NC scholarship and what it could mean for prospective students at Davidson-Davie Community College.
  • NC Community College System Chief of Staff Dr. Kim Gold met with Richmond Community College’s board of trustees to discuss the process for replacing President Dr. Dale McInnis, who will retire this fall.
  • Wake Technical Community College held a job fair for individuals interested in serving as adjunct faculty members. The fair drew more than 400 potential faculty members.
  • Cape Fear Community College recently partnered with Stevenson Hendrick Honda and Hendrick Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram FIAT to offer automotive technician courses at the dealership, according to a release from the college, providing students with hands-on training.
  • Central Piedmont Community College received approximately 23 acres of land from Hendrick Automotive Group and local business leader Rick Hendrick, near the college’s Levine Campus in Matthews. Central Piedmont will use the donated property to build a new first responder training facility, the college said in a press release.

Other higher education reads

Should financial aid be based on family wealth, rather than income alone?

The FAFSA does not ask for data that reveals many common forms of wealth for families, according to a new study spotlighted by the Hechinger Report.

An estimated 850,000 students per year benefit from assets that are not accounted for by the FAFSA, according to a 2022 report from the Brookings Institute, a nonpartisan research organization.

Right now, home equity and retirement savings, which are “the most important sources of wealth that most people have, don’t get counted,” said Phillip Levine, an economist who studies college affordability as a professor at Wellesley College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Levine said that white families are more likely to have these types of assets, and excluding them from financial aid calculations disproportionately benefits white students.

When a student’s financial need is calculated without considering home equity and retirement savings, the Brookings Institute estimates that white students receive roughly $2,200 more per year in financial aid than their Black peers, and $800 more than their Latinx peers.

For more data and context, check out the remainder of the piece.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.