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NCCCS celebrates enrollment increases and Propel NC

A note from us

Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58! If you missed last week’s edition with a preview of the myFutureNC State of Education events, you can read it on our website.

The State Board of Community Colleges discussed fall enrollment increases and approved the system’s funding model proposal Propel NC last week… myFutureNC hosted eight regional convenings across North Carolina to discuss the state of educational attainment… The U.S. Department of Education announced resources to deal with the multiple delays and technical glitches reported with the new FAFSA… EdNC released a case study on a nursing apprenticeship at Davidson-Davie Community College… Two local presidents published perspectives to discuss increasing student success and strengthening workforce pipeline…

It was a busy week last week in the North Carolina community college world, with lots of good news to go around. ICYMI, EdNC also released our first case study on Davidson-Davie’s registered nursing apprenticeship program, which you can read and share with your networks here.

On Thursday, the State Board of Community Colleges heard a positive update on enrollment trends across the state. The N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) saw a 4% increase in headcount in fall 2023, and a more than 5% increase in Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) student enrollment. While both measures are still down from fall 2019 before the pandemic, NCCCS leaders said trends are increasingly moving in the right direction.

On Friday, the Board also unanimously approved Propel NC, a new funding model proposal for the system. NCCCS leaders say the model is more labor-market driven and will help better meet the state’s workforce needs.

Now, Board members and system leaders will request consideration of Propel NC by the legislature during the short session in April. In the meantime, community college leaders will continue to meet with their legislative delegations, Cox said.

So far, the system has more than 100 letters of endorsement for the plan from businesses across the state, State Board Chair Tom Looney said. He thanked the Board, NCCCS funding model working group, NCACCP, and college trustees for their vision and leadership on the project.

“Propel NC is a dynamic and responsive change that allows us to meet the evolving needs of employers and get the next generation of workers ready for high-demand, good-paying jobs,” Looney said in a system release. “We need to take action now to ensure that our colleges continue to lead in delivering a skilled workforce essential for North Carolina’s ongoing economic development.”

And on Thursday, myFutureNC brought together education, government, business, and community leaders across the state to discuss the state of educational attainment. Nation and Emily attended two of the events, which celebrated the growth in attainment across the state, while also acknowledging remaining work to be done. Their recap is on our site now.

Thank you for the work you do for our community colleges and students and for reading Awake58.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

EdNC’s Senior Reporter

EdNC reads

State Board of Community Colleges discusses enrollment increases, approves new funding model Propel NC

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week and discussed several other important updates within the system, including fall enrollment increases, the approval of Propel NC, and an amendment about the reelection of local presidents. More on that amendment:

State law has historically given the State Board of Community Colleges the authority to approve or deny the election of local college presidents by local boards of trustees. The new budget, passed in September, adds reelection authority to the Board.

In January, the Board interpreted that added statute as requiring State Board approval for any contract renewals, extensions, or amendments for local presidential contracts. Last month, the State Board proposed an amendment to the State Board of Community Colleges code to reflect that.

Board Policy and Governance Committee Chair Chaz Beasley said the committee “is still engaged in conversation” about that item, and it will come to the Board again at a future meeting.

“We want to always ensure we have the support of our presidents, the support of our trustees, and the support of our external stakeholders,” Beasley said.

Now, a look at Propel NC, a new funding model proposal that the Board unanimously approved on Friday.

Under the proposed model, funding based on FTE will remain in place, but the current FTE tiers would shift to “workforce sectors.” In the new model, all curriculum and continuing education (CE) courses would reside in the same workforce sector.

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

The proposed sectors largely focus on health care, technology, and trades and will be ranked and valued by statewide salary job demand data every three years. Board member Ray Russell said he supported the plan but expressed hesitation at valuing jobs based on salary data. He noted the importance of child care teachers, who historically are underpaid, as an example.

You can read the full report from the meeting on our website.

myFutureNC holds regional convenings highlighting state of educational attainment in North Carolina

On Feb. 15, myFutureNC hosted eight regional convenings across North Carolina, bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the state of educational attainment. Here’s an excerpt from Emily and Nation’s recap of the events:

The convenings mark five years since myFutureNC announced a statewide attainment goal of 2 million 25- to 44-year-olds with a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. A new report released in conjunction with the convenings outlines how far North Carolina has come since then, and what remains to be done to reach the goal.

“From 2019 to 2022, the state has increased overall educational attainment by 4 percentage points from 53.4% to 57.4%,” the report reads. “But, most recent data show we still remain 391,900 away from 2 million, and are tracking 24,096 behind where we needed to be at this point in time to reach the goal.”

If North Carolina continues on its current path, the state will be short of its 2 million goal by 71,186 in 2030, according to the latest Census data.

“The number of students not achieving a degree or industry-valued credential within six years is less than a third of all North Carolina high schoolers, yet we know that two-thirds of our jobs require higher levels of education. North Carolina is losing too many of our students along this leaky pipeline, and we must do better. By tackling this at the local level, we believe this will provide solutions that are unique to each community,” said Cecilia Holden, president and CEO of myFutureNC, in a press release.

Can apprenticeships mitigate nursing shortages?

ICYMI, last week we also published a special edition of Awake58 focused on the release of our first EdNC case study, which looks at Davidson-Davie Community College’s registered nursing apprenticeship.

Emily spent more than three months with the Davidson-Davie team to understand the work that was necessary to launch the state’s first registered nursing apprenticeship program for adults. Here’s an excerpt from Emily’s feature article summarizing the study:

“It’s not Grey’s Anatomy. It is very real,” said Casey Castrianni, graduate of the inaugural nursing apprenticeship cohort at Davidson-Davie Community College (Davidson-Davie).

A partnership between Davidson-Davie and Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, the program is the first registered nursing apprenticeship program in North Carolina.

As one of five registered nurse (RN) apprenticeship graduates, Castrianni said receiving on-the-job training while attending school was a chance to experience the role she would step into after completing her program. It also provided invaluable hands-on experience that she wouldn’t have gained elsewhere.

“This program helped me immensely with becoming a nurse, the nurse I am today, because I was able to work in acute care,” she said. …

Experts predict North Carolina will see nursing shortages over the next decade. By 2033, the state could face a shortage of roughly 12,500 registered nurses (RNs) and over 5,000 licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

What started as a “what if” conversation quickly led to a collaborative effort that is now considered the largest health care apprenticeship in North Carolina.

Emily’s article is available on You can also check out her full case study. Please share with your networks and health care partners!

U.S. Department of Education rolls out support strategies amid FAFSA delays

Following glitches and delays reported with the new FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education announced new resources last week for completing the form. Among other things, it will deploy teams of federal student aid experts to under-resourced colleges in the next two weeks.

According to a department press release, the colleges will be selected based on several criteria, including “percentage of Pell students, resource constraints, and other indications of need.” The first set of schools received communication starting last week. Emily’s full report has more on the issues with rollout:

After a delayed FAFSA opening — three months later than its typical October start — the U.S. Department of Education announced in January that due to a formula fix to account for inflation, colleges will not receive students’ FAFSA data until March, possibly later. Colleges use this data to determine eligibility and award aid.

January press release indicated the formula update will allow students to access an additional $1.8 billion in aid.

But there are still technical issues within the FAFSA system preventing some students and parents from completing the form. Some of these issues include parents without a Social Security Number being unable to start a FAFSA form for a student or contribute to an existing form. Married students or parents who exit the FAFSA form before entering the required information of their spouse have not been able to add the information later and have been prevented from submitting the form.

Despite a new process for undocumented students to set up a account, students with a parent without a social security number cannot complete the FAFSA currently, and the U.S. Department of Education has not indicated when that will be fixed.

You can find the full list of open issues and workarounds here. Not all open issues have workarounds presently.

A cautionary tale for the community college system

The Coalition for Carolina Foundation held a webinar last week featuring former UNC System presidents Margaret Spellings and Tom Ross. The webinar discussed Gov. Roy Cooper’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina, which Spellings and Ross chaired, and how to push forward on the seven recommendations in the commission’s report.

EdNC CEO Mebane Rash wrote about the webinar and its implications for the community college system as the system responds to changes in governance by the legislature.

While the report and recommendations issued by the commission were for the UNC System, they are instructive when thinking about the governance of our 58 community colleges, especially given the recent changes in policy.

Is the governance structure of the local boards and the system board “organized for success,” as Spellings asks?

What is the role and responsibility of the system, and what is the role of the local boards? How centralized or decentralized should it be? And how has that and is that shifting, and why?

Is there a way to monitor whether governance changes are chilling the talent pool at the local or statewide level?

Read Mebane’s full article here.

Around NC

The State Board of Community Colleges approved candidates for the presidency at McDowell Technical and Martin community colleges on Friday. Following the meeting, McDowell Tech announced the names of those three finalists.

Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood recently wrote an EdNC perspective on shifting the perceptions of advanced manufacturing to build the talent pipeline. “Advanced manufacturing shapes our world, and yet, the field doesn’t always get the appreciation it deserves,” Leatherwood wrote. “While manufacturing has modernized, public perception has been slow to keep up, and many don’t understand the full scope of how the field has evolved.”

Cape Fear Community College President Jim Morton wrote another EdNC perspective last week, focused on the importance of reducing student barriers. Morton’s perspective includes insights on drop-in child care, year-round scholarships, and “including all students.”

Last week, EdNC CEO Mebane Rash published a heartwarming feature on love stories from N.C. community colleges, with a few (surprise) EdNC crossovers. You can read that article on our website.

The NCCCS is calling for proposals for this year’s North Carolina Community College System Conference, scheduled for Oct. 13-15. You can submit your proposal here.

Vance-Granville Community College President Dr. Rachel Desmarais was recently recognized by the Triangle Business Journal among the recipients of its 2024 Women in Business Awards.

The South Piedmont Community College Foundation recently received $200,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation to support the college’s nursing program. The funds will help expand the program and purchase high-tech training equipment, according to a release from the college.

Forsyth Technical Community College was one of nine organizations selected by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) to participate in the second cohort of a national program to help strengthen chamber of commerce partnerships with community colleges and community organizations to increase the number of adult learners of color who earn an industry-relevant credential or degree.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the N.C. Chamber recently released a toolkit that businesses can use to establish partnerships with public schools across North Carolina.

Tyre Boykin, a student-athlete from Brunswick Community College, recently shared his thoughts on Black History Month with the college. “Black history is something that we should celebrate throughout the year, but it’s also good to emphasize the impact of black-owned businesses, movements, talent, inventors, foods, and culture during February,” Boykin said.

The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) recently announced the acquisition of the SkillPointe technology platform. Founders of SkillPointe agreed to donate the technology platform, valued at over $6 million, to NACCE, which is a national leader in entrepreneurship education in community colleges.

Richmond Community College’s 911 telecommunications program will now be available to students at Johnston Community College after an official agreement was signed by college leaders, according to a RCC release.

Siemens Energy, Inc., a leading energy technology company, will expand its operations in the state and create a total of 559 jobs, Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced. The project brings an investment of $149.8 million and will establish in Mecklenburg County the company’s first manufacturing site in the United States to build Large Power Transformers (LPTs), “a critical component of the nation’s power grid.” The expansion also adds positions to the company’s engineering operations in Wake County.

Other higher education reads

New Industrial Policy: Federal investment could create lots of good manufacturing jobs, but funding gaps remain.

WorkShift’s Paul Fain has a helpful article outlining recent investments from the federal government in job training.

More details are emerging about the federal government’s investment in job training for the semiconductor industry, with new specifics about the workforce development pieces of the $53B CHIPS and Science Act.

While it remains unclear how much money will flow toward those programs, the funding likely will rival the amount spent on the nation’s primary workforce training system. That means billions of dollars for semiconductor education and training, much of it offered by community colleges and universities.

What’s New: The White House last week announced plans to roll out $5B for semiconductor-related R&D and workforce needs in the next two months. The investment will go to the new National Semiconductor Technology Center, which the administration has now formally established as a public-private consortium, to encourage strong industry participation.

To double the U.S. semiconductor workforce, the center will seek to scale up education and training programs with a solid track record, while trying new approaches, including those aimed at underserved communities. The Biden administration said it plans to invest “at least hundreds of millions of dollars” in those workforce efforts.

Semiconductor companies in some cases have committed to ensuring that many of the new jobs go to graduates of community colleges. Intel, for example, has said that two-thirds of 7K hires for its new manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Arizona will not need bachelor’s degrees.

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

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