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NCCCS asks lawmakers for $100 million for Propel NC

A note from us

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Awake58 — Hannah here. If you missed last week’s Awake58 about the Next NC Scholarship, you can find it on our website.

The N.C. Community College System is asking lawmakers for nearly $100 million to fund its proposed Propel NC model this short session… Three trends to pay attention to in the postsecondary space… A recap from Wilkes Community College’s 2024 MerleFest… Plus, a look at career planning initiatives at the K-12 level…

EdNC wrote and published a book about the impact of public education in North Carolina, titled “North Carolina’s Choice: Why our public schools matter.” The book, which includes a chapter on postsecondary attainment, is based on EdNC’s travel to all 115 school districts, 58 community colleges, and 100 counties.

Here’s a note from EdNC CEO Mebane Rash:

The purpose of the book is to encourage everyone from people in community to policymakers in Raleigh to talk out loud about how policy changes to public education bear on the role public schools play in economic development statewide, economic impact locally, as anchor institutions in community, in building the diverse workforce the future requires, the provision of early childhood education, postsecondary access and opportunity, and the perception of this state we all call home.

“Only state revenue and political will stand in the way of expanding school choice and at the same time investing in public schools,” finds the book.

In North Carolina, there are 115 school districts and 2,700 schools, including more than 200 charters, nine lab schools, three residential schools, and one regional school. In addition to charter schools and lab schools, public schools offer an abundance of choice: year-round, magnet, language immersion, single-sex, early college, career academies, virtual academies, alternative schools, and more.

Those schools collectively serve more than 1.5 million students, the future workforce of North Carolina.

“There’s one word that describes economic development,” said Cecilia Holden, the president of myFutureNC, recently. “What is that? Education. Education and economic development are one and the same.”

Needless to say, we’re excited to see the culmination of many months of work, and we would love to hear what you think! Here is a PDF of the book that is free. You can also order a printed copy here for $5.

Thanks, as always, for reading and for making the work we do possible.

See you on the road,

Hannah Vinueza McClellan
EdNC’s Senior Reporter

EdNC reads

N.C. Community College System asks lawmakers for $100 million to fund Propel NC model

The N.C. Community College System’s (NCCCS) primary legislative request this short session is money for Propel NC, the system’s new funding model proposal. The request includes a nearly $100 million price tag for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024-25.

The State Board of Community Colleges unanimously approved the new plan in February, five months after the system officially began work in August to revise its funding model. The NCCCS’ current state funding model was created in 2010 and last updated in 2013.

“This is labor-market driven and where we need to be,” Finance Committee Chair Lisa Estep said in February. “It’s a much needed shift.”

The vast majority of funding for the state’s 58 community colleges comes from state appropriations.

The system’s current funding model allocates resources to the colleges in proportion to the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students they enroll in each of their programs. Certain courses receive more state funds than others based on a four-tier funding model.

Propel NC would shift the current FTE funding tiers to “workforce sectors,” with courses ranked and valued by statewide salary job demand data every three years. All curriculum and continuing education (CE) courses would reside in the same workforce sector. The NCCCS says this shift “prioritizes connecting students to high-demand, high-wage jobs.”

The anticipated cost of this component of the model is approximately $68.6 million, according to the system.

“The change from tiers to workforce sectors does more than bring in new dollars and simplify our categories,” Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis wrote in an EdNC perspective. “It changes our business model at the college level. We will be able to make program and course decisions based on the quantified labor market value that education brings to the student as recognized by our state’s employers. The choice of offering a degree or short-term certificate will be driven by the value proposition for the student and the needs of the employers.”

Propel NC includes a $93 million recurring ask to lawmakers, according to a NCCCS document outlining the model. There is a $99 million ask for FY 2024-25.

Read about the full request on EdNC’s website.

Three higher education trends to watch

The higher education landscape has been changing for years.

From transfer and retention woes to a forecasted enrollment cliff among 18-20 year-olds, colleges have made a number of operational and policy changes to remain relevant in an increasingly dynamic world.

While the pandemic may have accelerated some of these changes, what’s clear is that these shifts are the underpinning of an even larger move to attract students, award credentials, and prepare students for future jobs.

Below, we’ve highlighted three higher education trends developing or iterating across the nation. These are just a few ways community colleges and universities are adapting to better serve students.

Emily’s article highlights three trends: transfer partnership rooted in dual admissions, community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees, and three-year bachelor’s degrees. You can read her full piece on our website.

MerleFest 2024 brings Old Crow Medicine Show, Lukas Nelson

MerleFest, an internationally-renowned music festival, wrapped Sunday, April 28 with main stage performances by Lukas Nelson + POTR and Nickel Creek.

Several festival attendees said it was the best MerleFest they’d been to in years.

The festival, which draws around 75,000 attendees over four days, is hosted on the campus of Wilkes Community College and has generated over $20 million in funds for college projects, including student scholarships, since its inception 36 years ago. It also has an annual economic impact of over $10 million in the region.

This year’s performances included Old Crow Medicine Show, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Turnpike Troubadours, Larkin Poe, Brandy Clark, Steep Canyon Rangers, Bela Fleck, and the Teskey Brothers.

Emily’s recap of the event also includes a look at the importance of rural-serving institutions and partnerships.

Community college leaders will tell you that in order to have collective impact, it takes collective response and partnerships.

MerleFest is one example of that collective response.

“Over 70 community and college organizations participate and benefit financially from their participation,” Festival Director Wes Whitson said.

And over 4,500 volunteers, both locally and nationally, give of their time and talents to make the event a success. This year marked the largest volunteer turnout in the festival’s history.

The event also includes sponsorships and resources from outside agencies and businesses. MerleFest’s presenting sponsor is Window World, a local Wilkes County business. Their sponsorship helps keep the festival financially sound, according to Whitson.

In recent years, the college has been able to provide tuition-free education for two years to every high school graduate in their service area.

Read the full recap on

Around NC

K-12 career planning | Education leaders from across North Carolina convened in Durham last month for the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) first career planning success summit. The event focused on the future development of student success career initiatives across the state.

Celebrating youth apprenticeships | ApprenticeshipNC is celebrating the inaugural Youth Apprenticeship Week this week, May 5-11. According to an email from ApprenticeshipNC: “Youth Apprenticeship Week (YAW) is a nationwide celebration established by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship that highlights the benefits and value of Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for youth, ages 16–24. During YAW, Registered Apprenticeship sponsors, employers, and partners from across North Carolina will host events celebrating Registered Apprenticeship for youth. In support of the nationwide initiative, Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed May 5-11 Youth Apprenticeship Week in North Carolina.”

Wayne CC and the NCMBC | The North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) at Wayne Community College has helped in awarding $115,796,725.31 in federal contracting for fiscal year 2023 in Wayne County, according to a release from the college. According to the release: “The NCMBC is a business development entity of the NC Community College System and is part of the Workforce Continuing Education Services division at WCC. Its goal is to leverage military and other federal business opportunities to expand the economy and improve the quality of life in NC.”

Graduation records | This Thursday, Cleveland Community College is set to host the largest graduation in the school’s history, with 831 students graduating and 1,070 credentials awarded. This will break the current record from last year’s ceremony, which had 619 graduates and 894 credentials.

New NCCCJTI edition | The North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching and Innovation (NCCCJTI) released the first issue of its third volume last week. You can view the spring 2024 edition on NCCCJTI’s website.

Cape Fear’s summer camps | Cape Fear Community College recently opened registration for its summer camps, which include career exploration camps, athletic camps, a career academy, and Upward Bound. To learn more and enroll in CFCC’s summer camp programming, visit

More funds for Project Kitty Hawk | The UNC System recently received a $7.8 million appropriation from Congress “to improve access to degree programs for adult learners.” According to the UNC System, the funding “will enable UNC campuses to accelerate the utilization of the online learning platform built by Project Kitty Hawk, an ed tech nonprofit that serves the UNC System. These campus level upgrades will help institutions create more high-demand online degree programs to reach working adults and military-affiliated students.”

Other higher education reads

Study: Community College Housing Program Produced Better Life Outcomes

Diverse Education recently published an article with findings about a housing partnership for community college students in Tacoma, Washington.

Education Northwest, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization promoting education for all, unveiled the results on Tuesday of a first-of-its kind, nine-year study of the partnership between Tacoma Community College (TCC) and the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA), called the College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP). The longitudinal study followed 422 housing insecure students, who were given the opportunity to apply for a housing voucher to lower the cost of a private housing unit.

The results reveal that, even if students were not able to access a voucher or find housing, connection to the CHAP program improved their ability to get a job, their health, and their well-being. Instances of involvement with the criminal justice system diminished. Students’ connection with CHAP helped them to more easily access other supports, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), two federal programs that address food insecurity.

“I’ve studied food insecurity across multiple community colleges,” said Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, senior fellow at Education Northwest and one of the authors of the report. “These are the most promising results we’ve seen to reduce food insecurity and help people eat every day. It might show that it’s not food people need, it’s housing.”

The results of the study may be key to helping higher education, and in particular community colleges, understand the vital importance of supporting a student’s housing and basic needs, said Dr. Ivan L. Harrell II, president of TCC.

You can read the full article online.

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

Hannah McClellan is EducationNC’s senior reporter and covers education news and policy, and faith.