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Many rural counties saw population increases. Why?

A note from us

The State Board of Community College’s Personnel Committee meets this week… We want to hear from you ahead of the 2024 election… A new report shows that North Carolina’s rural population has seen a resurgence… The K-12 school calendar debate continues… ACCT will launch a database compiling the various funding models for postsecondary education this summer…

Hello! Welcome to Awake58. Nation here.

I was struck by a new report from the Rural Center showing what they deem a “resurgence” in population in our rural counties. The growth was uneven, but it presents a new side to the story for our rural communities. Here are some of the highlights:

The population in North Carolina’s 78 rural counties grew by 106,632 people from 2010-2020, a 2.9 percent increase.

Despite this growth, many rural counties lost population during this time, and rural growth lagged that of suburban and urban counties.

From 2020-2023, growth in rural North Carolina accelerated to 2.7 percent, adding almost as many people in just three years as in the previous decade.

The difference between rural, suburban, and urban growth was narrower during this time.

Further analysis shows that increased net migration into rural counties was the primary cause of rural growth.

The school calendar for K-12 districts will remain a hot topic as Hannah Vinueza McClellan reports: “Twenty-nine of the state’s 115 school districts plan to start school early without permission this upcoming school year, according to an annual report on school start and end dates received by the State Board of Education on Thursday. That’s a little more than 25% of districts.”

The debate over school calendars frequently arises in community college discussions about dual enrollment. Another key issue? Funding. Journalist Paul Fain penned one of the week’s most compelling articles on higher education, examining the funding formula for dual enrollment nationwide. The consensus is that in some states, dual enrollment acts as a “loss leader” because these states often don’t fund dually enrolled students at the same rate. Fain also mentions that the Association of Community College Trustee (ACCT) plans to launch a dashboard this summer, showcasing how states fund community colleges. This promises to be an invaluable tool as policymakers and higher education leaders consider funding models moving forward.

If you missed last week’s Awake58 focusing on five districts that are piloting new approaches to drive up their FAFSA completion rate, you can find it on our website.

I will be on the road most of this week. My travels will take me to Davidson-Davie, Fayetteville Tech, and Wayne community colleges. If you are on campus this week, reply to this email. I’d love to say hello.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Chief of Growth –

EdNC reads

NC Rural Center’s new report documents rural population ‘resurgence’

As noted above, the Rural Center’s report highlights an uptick in rural population across the state. Eighteen counties still saw a decline, but a number of counties saw growth. The report seemingly points to a growth in remote or hybrid employment opportunities as driving part of the trend.

Woodie says the data “reminds us how just how rural North Carolina is even after decades of change. We still have the second-largest rural population in the United States — second only to Texas.”

The state’s population, he says, “is close to being equally divided among rural, urban, and suburban counties.”

Woodie notes the greatest population increases in the state are occurring among rural counties right next door to cities.

The trend in population growth in rural counties, the report finds, is “largely tied” to opportunities to work virtually emerging from the pandemic and the now unprecedented opportunities for people to live where we want to live and work from home.

Communities with lower costs of living tend to be in the suburbs and rural areas, according to the report.

“Rural communities in North Carolina are attractive to people,” the report, authored by Dalton Bailey, research and data manager for the N.C. Rural Center, says.

For more details, and the maps highlighting the population trends, check out Mebane Rash’s article.

ICYMI: Survey | What issues matter to you in the 2024 election?

The 2024 election is underway, and several of the offices on this year’s ballot will have major consequences for public education in North Carolina.

Voters in the state will elect a new superintendent of public instruction, between Republican Michele Morrow and Democrat Mo Green. But there are plenty of other important positions up for election this year, from governor and state representatives to local offices like school boards and county commissioners.

At EdNC, we want our coverage of the 2024 election to focus on what you care about most. The answers to these questions will be used to inform the stories we write, the questions we ask candidates, and more.

Please take our survey on Thank you!

What’s the latest on school calendar start and end dates?

More details on the debate around the K-12 school calendar can be found in Hannah’s article:

Under North Carolina law, traditional public schools are prohibited from starting the school year sooner than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and from ending the year later than the Friday closest to June 11.

School and district leaders have long asked for more calendar flexibility, claiming the required window limits a district’s ability to meet the needs of its community. In North Carolina, the General Assembly has regulated school calendars for 20 years, largely due to the tourism industry’s concerns that starting earlier would hurt businesses.

2023 Superintendent of the Year Dr. Don Phipps told the Board during his farewell remarks as superintendent advisor to the Board that calendar flexibility would help districts plan more professional development, teacher-parent conferences, and teacher workdays.

Phipps said that all schools that receive state funding should follow the same law.

“Local school boards should be able to choose the best start dates of school for the systems they represent,” said Phipps, superintendent of Caldwell County Schools. “… It should also be noted this law is not required to charter schools, or private schools that receive state money through the Opportunity Scholarships.”

What do you think? Would greater calendar flexibility aid your college as you serve dually enrolled students? We would love to know your thoughts. Just reply directly to this email.

Around NC

Pitt CC continues the search for their next president | Pitt Community College originally planned to hold candidate forums for their semifinalists a few weeks ago. The college announced the forums will now be held in mid-to-late June, according to the most recent update provided by the search firm. The personnel committee for the State Board will meet this week.

System office announces new AVP of Student Services | The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) named Dr. Torry Reynolds as the new Associate Vice President of Student Services, according to a release from the system office. Dr. Reynolds brings 18 years of experience in higher education to the system office, including her current role as AVP of Student Success Services at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem.  

NCCU, WSSU name new chancellors | Both North Carolina Central and Winston-Salem State University have been going through leadership transitions this year. Dr. Karrie Dixon was named chancellor of North Carolina Central University last week. She previously served as the chancellor of Elizabeth City State University. Bonita Brown was named chancellor of Winston-Salem State University last week as well. Brown comes from Northern Kentucky University.

Business North Carolina takes a look at drone programs across the 58 | Business NC published an article last week looking at the rise in educational offerings focused on drones through the prism of Beaufort County and Vance-Granville community colleges. The author rightly notes the importance of drone programs extends from agriculture to the military.

Other tidbits:

Other higher education reads

Reaching Into High School

Check out Paul Fain’s comprehensive look at funding for dual enrollment when you have a moment:

The booming dual enrollment of high school students in community college has been a lifeline for the sector’s student numbers, which tanked during the pandemic. Yet the surge can be a financial burden for two-year colleges.

That’s because in most parts of the country, two-year colleges receive less funding per dual-enrolled student than they receive for their regular students, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center. They note that dual enrollment may not be financially sustainable where it is offered at a discount.

That warning has taken on new urgency. Dual enrollment—also called concurrent enrollment—doubled in the decade before 2021, with 1.4M students enrolled in those programs, Colleen Connolly reports for Work ShiftMore than 1M of those dual-enrolled students were attending community colleges, and they now account for large shares of total enrollment.

“A lot of our colleges are hovering around 50%,” says Jee Hang Lee, president and CEO at the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).

Funding for dual-enrolled students often flows to high schools. Community colleges in many cases must negotiate with K-12 districts for a share of that money, including in Texas and Michigan. As a result, dual-enrolled students typically are not fully funded on the community college side.

“We’re talking cents on the dollar,” Lee says. “Sometimes it is a loss leader.”

ACCT last week announced a project to explore how states fund community colleges, including through dual enrollment. It partnered with the American Association of Community Colleges and the State Higher Education Executive Officers on the project, which is funded by the Lumina Foundation.

Fain also wrote about applications for generative AI on community college campuses.

I’d also recommend reading WorkShift’s recent report on dual enrollment programs, which focuses on careers.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.