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Leaders discuss how to develop the state's workforce at N.C. Chamber conference

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 – your weekly round-up of the latest community college news from across North Carolina and the country. Last week, we looked at student retention and apprenticeship grants. You may read that edition by clicking here.

The State Board of Community Colleges meets this week… N.C. Chamber Education & Workforce Conference was held last week… Blue Ridge Community College pesident discusses winning strategies… Stith shares thoughts on his time as president of the North Carolina Community College System…

This week marks the start of classes for many of North Carolina’s community colleges. Tag us on Twitter @Awake58NC as you post about students returning to your campuses.

Earlier this month, EdNC’s CEO & Editor-in-Chief Mebane Rash published a piece about the power of welcome. Rash talks about how EdNC shows up in communities and how, as a team, we strive to really get to know people and take the time to truly listen. Or, as I like to say, listen to listen instead of listening to respond. 

EdNC will be engaging in that intentional practice this fall as we gear up for what we’re calling Impact58. In addition to our regular coverage, our team will be visiting all 58 community colleges from now until the end of November. Keep an eye out for articles as we make our way across the state. 

We have a number of articles out this week – starting with Hannah McClellan’s recap of the N.C. Chamber Education & Workforce Conference that took place on Aug. 11. You can also check out Hannah’s update on the Longleaf Commitment and her article about the UNC System expanding efforts to help adult learners.

What are winning strategies for community college presidents? Blue Ridge President Dr. Laura Leatherwood shares her thoughts. And in this perspective, Thomas Stith reflects on his time as president of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS).

EdNC will be tuning in to the State Board of North Carolina Community Colleges’ monthly meeting this Thursday and Friday. You can view the agenda here.

In this week’s Awake58 edition, we’re listing a number of upcoming learning opportunities for those engaged in postsecondary work. Scroll down to find them.

Be sure to check out this tweet thread by Hannah McClellan about her coverage of a back-to-school event hosted by Black faith leaders in Sanford. Central Carolina Community College partnered with others in the community to host the event which included voter registration, vaccinations, and Central Carolina sign-up stations. 

What stories are we missing? Drop us a line by replying directly to this email. As always, thank you for reading Awake58! 

Listening to listen – 

Emily Thomas 

Policy Analyst –

EdNC reads

N.C. Chamber: ‘Better days ahead for our education and workforce system’

State business and education leaders gathered in Durham on Thursday to discuss how to develop a diverse and competitive state workforce at the N.C. Chamber’s “Education and Workforce Conference.”

Event speakers and panelists addressed each juncture of education – early childhood, K-12, and the postsecondary level. Advocates for early childhood education said that more accessible pre-K options help workers, which in turn helps businesses. Educators and leaders from the K-12 and college levels said clearer career pathways give students more options.

N.C. Chamber, a business advocacy organization, stressed that moving the needle on the state’s workforce shortage requires education partnerships – and vice versa. Serving the state well requires collaboration, agility, resiliency, and partnerships, speakers said.

2022 high school grads could get free tuition at N.C. community colleges this year

More than 25,000 students have now received Longleaf funds, according to the NCCCS.

Those same funds are being offered to students who graduated in 2022. Students can receive funding for tuition and fees at any of the state’s 58 community colleges.

Gov. Roy Cooper launched the grant in May 2021 to supplement the federal Pell grant. The grant ensures recent high school graduates from low- and middle-income families receive anywhere from $700 to $2,800 per year to go toward tuition and fees for up to two years at N.C. community colleges. Nearly $8.7 million in Longleaf funds went to more than 13,600 students by last spring, the governor’s press office said. Of those students, 63% were from families with incomes less than $70,000 per year.

UNC System expands efforts to help adult learners complete college

The UNC System is launching a statewide initiative to offer one-on-one success coaching to help students with some college and no degree or credential complete their studies at one of eight system schools.

“The pandemic has made college access more challenging than ever, especially for adult learners and students from historically underrepresented populations,” said Eric Fotheringham, director of community college partnerships and adult learner initiatives at the UNC System. “The expansion of this work will be a crucial part of the System’s efforts to support returning students, remove barriers to re-enrollment and success, and ensure that students have the support they need to succeed.”

In 2021, a coalition of community colleges across the state started similar work to re-enroll adult learners. N.C. Reconnect also partners with InsideTrack. When N.C. Reconnect launched, the program saw nearly 1,000 adult learners enrolled across the first five pilot schools. Last spring, N.C. Reconnect expanded to five more schools. 

Perspective | Five winning strategies for community college presidents

Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood shares her tips and strategies for how to be a strong leader.

Community college presidents wear many hats, requiring a great deal of organization and a team on whom you can rely. As presidents, we have to understand the big picture and entrust the daily ins and outs of running the college to our capable and well-qualified staff and faculty.

Additionally, we must play an integral role in solving workforce challenges through education and leadership, welcoming the opportunity to take the lead in bringing partners together to find solutions. We’re advocates, mediators, administrators, and fundraisers. The list goes on. So, how do we meet so many needs without dropping the ball?

Find out what Leatherwood describes as five strategies for success.

Perspective | Looking back on my time as Community College System President

Thomas Stith recently resigned after serving as NCCCS president for more than a year. In a recent Perspective, he reflects on what he accomplished during his tenure.

As I visited each of the “Great 58” North Carolina community colleges during my first year as president, I took in the similarities and uniqueness of each college. Just as each of us has a distinctive style, so does each of our community colleges.

Read more from Stith here.

Around NC

The North Carolina Community College System’s conference will be held Oct. 9-11. Registration is now open. Conference topics include innovative practices in student success and retention, initiatives and programs focused on breaking down barriers to access and success, and more.

The annual Dallas Herring Lecture is scheduled for Nov. 8. Dr. Mike Flores, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges District, will deliver the keynote address. Flores will discuss advancing equity and enhancing economic mobility using local collective impact strategies. Register for the event here.

LatinxEd is hosting their annual education summit Sept. 14-15. The summit will take place at the conference center at Guilford Technical Community College. Summit details and registration information can be found here.

The Hunt Institute’s webinar on the role of community colleges in postsecondary attainment is scheduled for Aug. 31 at 2 p.m. Wilkes Community College President Dr. Jeff Cox and the Belk Center Executive Director Dr. Audrey J. Jaeger are among the panelists. Register here.

Sandhills Community College President John Dempsey announced his retirement

Gov. Roy Cooper visited Western North Carolina last week to deliver remarks at the WNC Rebounding Stronger Summit. Cooper talked about rural areas and “the importance of community colleges in training economic development workers so that they can bring that to potential industries that might want to consider Western North Carolina for an expansion.”

State grant funds will go to 12 counties in North Carolina to expand broadband

myFutureNC shared several tools for attainment success, including early childhood briefs and the Belk Center’s Adult Learner Guidebook

The Earl Scruggs Music Festival is scheduled for Sept. 2-4. Isothermal Community College’s radio station, WNCW 88.7, is partnering with the Earl Scruggs Center to host the event at Tryon International Equestrian Center. 

North Carolina Wesleyan University is partnering with Wayne Community College to boost higher education access. 

Community colleges, including Forsyth Technical and Davidson-Davie community colleges, and health care systems in the Triad address worker shortages through apprenticeships.

EdNC’s Early Bird newsletter is out, and Liz Bell covers workforce efforts ahead of a funding cliff.

Other higher education reads

A more strategic approach to social media

What if every community college president was on board 100% to support their college’s social media strategy? What if they took the following big steps toward ensuring their school is fully leveraging social media? The result could be the golden trifecta: improved enrollment, retention and brand awareness.

This piece from Community College Daily explores the challenges of in-house social media marketing and provides strategies for community college leaders to consider when leveraging social media. Read more here.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is calling on colleges to change how they approach student success. He unveiled a new grant program for minority-serving institutions and flamed elite universities.

In a speech made last week, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urged colleges to change how they approach student success and announced a new grant program for minority-serving institutions.

Cardona said that elite rankings are a “joke” and that more attention needs to be focused on the institutions that serve the nation’s less-affluent students.

“It’s a cruel irony that institutions that serve the most students with the most to gain from a college degree have the fewest resources to invest in student success,” he said.

In order to change this, he said that leaders in higher education need to “embrace a new vision of college excellence,” which involves creating spaces and resources that are inclusive and meet the needs of underrepresented students.

Read more here.


Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.