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Senate bill proposes significant governance changes for NCCCS

A note from us

Hi, Nation here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed last week’s edition, you can read it by clicking here.

The House budget passed last week… HB149 was amended to require legislative approval for system president… SB692, filed last week, would provide sweeping governance shifts across the entire community college system… Plus, we have a new series from John Quinterno looking at community college governance models in other states… 

Last week was a significant news week for the community college system and the legislature. It is hard to know where to begin, but let’s start with SB692. This bill would provide significant changes to governance across the entire N.C. Community College System (NCCCS). Here are a few of the significant proposed changes in SB692:

  • The system president selected by the State Board of Community Colleges would be subject to confirmation by the General Assembly moving forward. That candidate would initially be named an interim president prior to full approval.
  • The system president would gain power under the bill, including increased budget authority. The president could also choose to provide reports to the General Assembly without the approval of the Board.
  • The system president would take on a new role in the hiring of college presidents, making a recommendation to either approve or deny the hires to the Board. Currently, the State Board of Community Colleges approves the hires without the system president having a formal role.
  • The system president would have the authority to recommend removal of individual trustees at the college level. In addition, the president would be able to terminate college presidents for noncompliance with their contracts.
  • And, the makeup of the State Board of Community Colleges will shift significantly. The Governor will no longer have the power to make appointments, the Board will gradually shrink in size, and more.

Local boards will also be impacted. Read my full write-up here.

HB149 was also amended earlier in the week to provide for a similar process for selecting system presidents moving forward.

We broke the news on the bill being filed on our new Awake58 texting line. You may sign-up to receive other breaking news texts by clicking here. This is a good example of why we created this text line — and we hope that you will join us moving forward.

We had been working with researcher John Quinterno for the past several months exploring governance models for community colleges ahead of this legislative session. With this bill being filed, we wanted to answer questions that many of you posed to us last week.

Who decides? Governing the North Carolina Community College System,” outlines the current model of governance — including some background on how the system evolved over time.

And we also take a deep dive on governance models for other states including our neighbors to the south and to the north. The short answer is that governance models vary by state. Longer answers can be found in Quinterno’s second piece, “How do other states govern community colleges?”

We welcome your thoughts on SB692 — as well as our governance series. Feel free to respond directly to this email.

We will also be visiting Halifax and Piedmont community college this weeks. Stay tuned for more!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

Sweeping governance shifts proposed for community college system

As outlined above, SB692 will mean significant changes for the governance of the community college system. Click here to read more about the changing make-up of the board.

The bill would also change local governance if it becomes law.

At present, college boards have varied appointment processes with the governor, legislature, county commissioners, and local boards of education making appointments, depending on the college.

SB692 would create a singular process. Every college would have 12 members of their Board of Trustees, with four members appointed by the House, another four appointed by the Senate, and the remainder appointed by the county commissioners in the county where the college is headquartered.

College boards of trustees would still manage the process for selecting their local college president, with the system president making a formal recommendation to either approve or deny the local board’s choice to the state board. Currently, the state board approves the hires without the system president having a formal role.

The system president would now also be able to terminate the contract of individual college presidents for noncompliance with their contract terms. The bill would also give the system president the authority to recommend removal of individual trustees at the local college level.

The Senate is on break this week. When they return, we expect to learn the committee the bill will be referred to for further action.

You will see that I reference several questions in my article that have already emerged related to the proposed changes.

Many colleges have campuses in multiple counties. If this bill became law local board of trustees would be appointed by the House, Senate, and the county commissioners in the home county of the college. One audience member raised this question: “Some rural colleges already struggle to gain support from counties where there is not a main campus. If they no longer have Board representation, we may not get enough funding to operate satellite centers, which will prevent us from serving our communities. What happens then?”

I would welcome your questions and thoughts moving forward. Feel free to reply directly to this email.

Who decides? Governing the North Carolina Community College System

In order to fully examine where we are going, it is helpful to look at where we began. John Quinterno’s first research piece examines the evolution of North Carolina’s community college system:

Periodic reappraisals of how best to govern public higher education are not uncommon. Models suited for a state at one moment in history or under one set of socioeconomic conditions might prove inappropriate for another. When the legislature placed the new community college system under the State Board of Education in 1963, it was responding to that era’s realities. When conditions later changed, the legislature voted in 1979 to shift authority to a new State Board of Community Colleges, where it remains today. 5

Redesigns of governance models can be politically fraught and too narrowly focused on structural and bureaucratic issues. Easily lost is the overarching goal of student success. Higher education governance and the associated planning, budgeting, data management, regulatory, and administrative functions exist not as ends in themselves, but as means for helping students access, persist in, and complete programs in a timely and affordable manner.

Any changes should be mindful of the system’s mission and history. To provide context for public deliberation, this article begins by explaining the meaning of “governance” in the context of higher education and then looks at the development of the current governance model.

For more of the history of the N.C. Community College System, click here.

How do other states govern community colleges?

One common question raised by folks last week was what is happening in community college governance in other states.

John Quinterno’s piece looks at our neighbors for some context:

Georgia is similar in that it has two different governing boards, but one is responsible for public four-year institutions and certain two-year institutions, the other for the state’s two-year technical institutes. Virginia and Tennessee, meanwhile, entrust governance of their public four-year and two-year institutions to different entities, but both states have formal statewide coordinating bodies. South Carolina also has a statewide coordinating board, but most institutions are governed locally apart from a set of 16 technical institutes.

And, of course, another question raised is why do some states have four and two-year institutions governed by one body while others have separate governing bodies. Quinterno digs in on some of the research as well:

Unlike most studies that claim no governance model is inherently superior, Richardson and de los Santos argued that the differences matter for community colleges. States with a single body responsible for all of higher education might seem to have advantages in coordination, yet “boards with combined responsibilities for two- and four-year institutions often fail to make optimum use of the two-year sector, thus leading to problems in both coherence and efficiency.”

Read the full piece here.

Around NC

The NCCCS hiring process for a new president will continue this week with additional interviews for the top job. Details can be found here. We expect this meeting to remain in closed session.

From the Governor’s office: “Gov. Cooper has appointed the following individual to the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges: David E. Price of Chapel Hill as a member at-large. Congressman Price served 17 terms as a member of the United States Congress, where he represented Orange, Wake, and Durham counties, before retiring in January of this year. Prior to being elected to Congress, Price was a Professor of Political Science at Duke University, and following his retirement has now returned to teach Public Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.”

The House budget passed last week. The budget will head to the Senate next. Here are details in the proposed budget for community colleges:

The budget includes $1.5 billion for the community college system, with the same salary increases for faculty as for K-12 teachers — 4.25% in 2023-24 and 3.25% in 2024-25 — and $25.9 million for faculty recruitment and retention. It includes $16 million recurring in both years to account for enrollment growth adjustments. It also would give $25 million recurring both years to the Longleaf Commitment financial aid program.

The budget would allocate funds for workforce development, some of which are aimed at specific industries. It includes a one-time $15 million to waive registration fees for continuing education courses, $40 million for health care programs, and $30 million to support high-cost workforce programs.

Even before SB692 was filed, HB 149 called for a change in the process for hiring the next system president:

The amendment would require the State Board of Community Colleges to submit the names of the person elected as president. The legislature would then confirm or deny through a joint resolution.

“We’ve had inconsistency in our president of our state community college system for several years now,” Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Cumberland, said. “It’s been a revolving door. We have some of the largest industrial corporations in the world that are coming to North Carolina. They’re expecting an educated and prepared workforce. We have to have certainty and continuity in our president of our system, and this will help bring that along.”

Last year, the Belk Center, in partnership with Achieving The Dream, launched the Rural College Leaders Program to help rural-serving NC community colleges meet the unique needs of their institutions. Our article on the program is here.

Our own Liz Bell attended a gathering of early childhood faculty and staff to learn more about their view of the early childhood education landscape across the community college system.

Check out this EdNC article on the rise of Hispanic Serving Institutions in North Carolina.

The Belk Center released a newsletter celebrating community college month.

Cape Fear Community College launched a $1 million campaign in support of nursing scholarships. The college also announced a new construction academy last week.

Richmond Community College announced a new partnership with Bladen Community College focused on training 911 operators. In a release from the college, RCC stated: “In an effort to promote collaboration over competition, Richmond Community College is partnering with Bladen Community College to make available its new 911 telecommunications program to more students across the state of North Carolina.”

Southwestern Community College has formally introduced its new law enforcement training center: “The SCC-PSTC’s new Law Enforcement Operations Urban Terrain (LEOUT) accomplishes exactly that for Boudrot, and – more importantly – everyone who trains there. The course features 43 metal Conex (shipping) containers, which are laid out strategically near SCC’s driver-training range. The facility also includes abandoned vehicles and gas pumps to simulate a small-town layout.”

I had a chance to preview the new law enforcement training facility in the fall. It was fascinating to see a training exercise unfold in real-time.

Other higher education reads

‘The reckoning is here’: More than a third of community college students have vanished

Nearly 2.6 million fewer students are enrolled at community colleges nationally now than were enrolled in community colleges in 2010. The Hechinger Report has an in-depth look at some of the factors that you should read. This passage stood out:

When she asked student nurses at a hospital why they were going to a for-profit university, said Parham, they told her it was because the wait to get into the same program at the local community college was six months to a year.

For reasons like this, community colleges continue to lose prospective students to for-profit institutions, despite the fact that for-profits often have worse labor outcomes that can include lower job placement rates and postgraduate earnings and higher costs that lead to more debt.

Other factors are also contributing to the huge enrollment decline at community colleges. Strong demand in the job market for people without college educations has made it more attractive for many to go to work than to school. Thanks to so-called degree inflation, many jobs that do require a higher education now call for bachelor’s degrees where associate degrees or certificates were once sufficient, drawing students to four-year universities. And private, regional public and for-profit universities, facing enrollment crises of their own, are competing to steal away high school graduates who might be considering community college.

I am curious to know of solutions your local college might be considering. EdNC will have more on enrollment soon.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.