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New State Board Chair: 'We’re going to be the Extraordinary 58.'

A note from us

Hi, Nation here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed our last newsletter featuring our interview with NCCCS President Dr. Jeff Cox, you can find it on our website.

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week… the N.C. Community College System and North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities signed a new articulation agreement around early care and early childhood education last Friday… Four new presidents were officially welcomed by the State Board… 

This is a special edition of Awake58 for us, as we have officially been sending this newsletter for five years this week. That means our newsletter is old enough to be a Kindergartener. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed crafting and sending out this newsletter the last five years. It has been an honor for you to allow us into your inboxes each week — and an even greater joy to get to know so many of you through your thoughtful replies, visits to your campuses, and our reporting over the last half decade.

My exposure to community colleges began with Caldwell Community College as a kid. It was the institution my family members turned to when they needed a fresh start or new beginning. In fact, my great grandmother, great aunt, and my grandmother all graduated with a GED from Caldwell during the same graduation!

It has been a privilege to deepen my knowledge of the Great 58 alongside all of you. Please know how much I appreciate you reading this newsletter and our coverage. We appreciate the trust you have placed in us as you have opened your doors again and again.

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week — and Hannah has the full story. Among other topics, the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) and North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) announced a new articulation agreement around early childhood education that they hope will create seamless pathways for students who wish to teach in this critical space.

Community colleges across the state began classes last week, and the vast majority of K-12 school districts begin this week and next week. My colleague Mebane wrote a “welcome back to the school year” note that is worth a read.

We appreciate all of the kind words about our profile of new system President Dr. Jeff Cox we published last week. A number of you highlighted this passage on the importance of bolstering rural community colleges and collaboration:

Cox is also focused on increasing and incentivizing regional collaboration between colleges. He wants to document and showcase existing collaborations while advocating for funding models that incentivize more partnerships.

He hopes to see more collaboration and resource sharing with rural community colleges. These colleges don’t have the same resources, both in what they get from the state and their own communities, Cox said, as the larger, more urban colleges.

“For North Carolina to truly prosper and be all it can be, we have to figure out how to better support the rural parts of the state,” he said.

As the new school year gets more fully underway, we would welcome your thoughts on how the state could support both collaborations amongst community colleges and our rural community colleges. We’ll share some of the responses with our audience.

Thank you!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn
Chief of Growth —

EdNC reads

State Board celebrates early childhood education articulation agreement between NCCCS and NCICU

We offered more details on the articulation agreement NCCCS and NCICU announced above:

As EdNC has previously reported, the early care and education system is in crisis. On one hand, a lack of affordable child care contributes to worker shortages. On the other, low wages for teachers leads to less capacity while also threatening the quality of early childhood programs.

Cox acknowledged this reality during the signing ceremony. He mentioned the system’s focus on economic mobility and the Board’s recent work to identify programs that have a strong economic impact for students.

“What we know sometimes is with early childhood, with our associate degree students, they don’t always have the best economic return. So having the flexibility to go on and get this four-year degree gives students in that field the capacity to go on to jobs that do pay a living wage,” he said. “This is a critical agreement, and we’re pleased to be here to sign with you today.”

Williams added that NCICU’s partnership with the system is far reaching. The two institutions first signed a comprehensive articulation agreement in the mid-1990’s, which was revised in 2015.

Last week’s meeting was the first State Board meeting chaired by new leaders:

The State Board’s meeting on Aug. 18 was the first full meeting under the leadership of the new chair, Tom Looney, and vice-chair, Dr. Grant Campbell, both unanimously elected in July.

“We’re no longer going to be the Great 58,” Looney said at the time. “We’re going to be the Extraordinary 58.”

The Board introduced several new college presidents: Randolph Community College President Dr. Shah Ardalan, Sandhills Community College President Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Stewart, and Wilson Community College President Dr. Jami Woods.

The Board also approved Ryan Garrison as the interim president at McDowell Technical Community College. The current president, Dr. Brian Merritt, was selected as the system’s new chief academic officer last month. He will start on Sept. 1.

Three other colleges are searching for a new president, according to the system’s college president status report.

“Our presidents are the heart and soul of our colleges,” Looney said. “So thank you all for the work you’ve done.”

At the system office, the staff vacancy rate is around 10%, according to the report presented at the Board meeting. Last August, that rate was just over 13%.

Hannah’s article also discussed the system’s tracking of metrics related to their strategic plan, the system’s report for the General Assembly on the Career Coach program, and a discussion about the impact of dual enrollment for students.

Welcoming students and parents back to school

Mebane welcomed students and parents back to the new K-12 school year with this note. She outlined some research around parent engagement that every sector could likely learn from:

Recent research from Brookings finds “partnerships with parents are key to solving heightened political polarization in schools.”

From a rise in Freedom of Information Act requests, to increasing verbal and written threats against educators, to a surge in requests from parents to opt-out of instruction on certain topics, to more and more book bans, Brookings research suggests:

Educators don’t need to hide from controversial topics. They can (and should) bring families into respectful, productive conversations to build a foundation of trust and shared goals with families before conflict arises.

Based on the survey, the researchers recommend a two-prong approach for schools and districts: A proactive strategy to engage parents and build trust, and a reactive strategy “to manage conflict when it does occur to reduce the burden on educators.”

They found that three things help in navigating our complex local and state political ecosystems:

  1. Create clear protocols for how teachers and principals should respond to families.

  2. Collect data on what families in their school communities think about politicized issues.

  3. Foster greater transparency around instructional policies and practices and work to establish more alignment between parental beliefs and best practices.

Around NC

From our colleagues at the Belk Center on this year’s Dallas Herring Lecture:

We are also excited to announce NC powerhouse higher education leaders Shelley White, Haywood Community College, and JB Buxton, Durham Technical Community College, will be this year’s DHL Respondents! We can’t wait to share more in the coming months. Register now for #DHL2023.

WEBINAR Opportunity from Strada Education: “How do those who attended community college perceive the value of their experience? A new report from Strada Education Foundation analyzes data from a nationally representative survey of recent community college students, including those who completed degrees or certificates and those who did not. The results reveal what was most important to them and how they believe their education has influenced their lives.” RSVP on the Strada website.

Blue Ridge Community College announced three new trustees last week. The college also kicked off their new school year with a convocation focused on a “Year of Opportunity.”

Central Piedmont Community College has new leadership on its Board of Trustees. Sen. Thom Tillis also visited CPCC recently to both discuss and tour their workforce development programs.

News from Cape Fear Community College: “Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) is proud to announce that it has once again been recognized as the premier Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Program in North Carolina by for the fourth consecutive year.”

Cape Fear Community College also named Shawn Dixon as Provost of the CFCC North Campus last week.

Johnston Community College announced “record-breaking” enrollment for the fall: “JCC enrolled 4,803 degree-seeking students, the largest number in the College’s history. That is more than a ten percent increase year over year.”

What are you seeing in the enrollment trends for your college this fall? We would love to know! Just reply directly to this email.

McDowell Technical Community College announced Ryan Garrison will serve as the Interim President (for the second time!) with the news of current MTCC President Dr. Brian Merritt departing the college to serve as Chief Academic Officer for the N.C. Community College System.

Other higher education reads

To thrive in volatile times, colleges must crack the code on industry pathways

Community College Daily just published a commentary highlighting some thoughts on how colleges and industry can combine forces.

Colleges and universities working to get more people into meaningful career paths are learning they need to meet both employers and students where they are. After all, institutions are not manufacturing widgets. There is no one-size-fits-all, interchangeable template for helping students succeed as professionals in the long term. Instead, this task requires undergirding meaningful, ongoing partnerships with employers with intentional, high-touch support for learners.

For example, Austin Community College (ACC) in Texas offers training, certification and associate degree programs rooted in local industry demands — as well as four bachelor’s degree programs designed to help working professionals build on their existing experiences and advance in their careers. Crucially, ACC has integrated a success coaching model into its academic advising program. Advisors and coaches work one-on-one with students to not only help them register for classes and select a major, but to navigate financial, family and career-related challenges that can throw them off course from earning a degree.

By creating pathways to careers that are informed by data and centered around the needs of learners, institutions can strengthen the labor market and help more students achieve their goals. All colleges and universities can work to better serve their communities, regardless of whether the word “community” is part of their name.

PROOF POINTS: Inside the perplexing study that’s inspired colleges to drop remedial math

The Hechinger Report examines a study that led to many colleges shifting how they tackle remediation. The answers from both the study and the reality that followed are more nuanced than originally reported, per the article.

The good news is that the switch from remedial algebra to college stats didn’t seem to harm anyone. Indeed, the students in the statistics group were just as likely to complete advanced math courses, along the algebra-to-calculus track, as students who started with remedial algebra, according to co-author Daniel Douglas, director of social science research at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, who led the data analysis. In the final number crunching, the stats students were just as likely to complete math-intensive degrees that required college algebra. Starting with stats didn’t thwart students from changing their minds about their majors and returning to an algebra-to-calculus track, Douglas said.

The bad news is that a lot of community college students still fell through the cracks. Although there was a 50 percent boost to the number of students who completed an associate’s degree within three years, only a quarter of the statistics students hit this milestone. Almost three-quarters didn’t. And though bypassing math remediation and heading straight to college stats led to a 100 percent increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees, only 14 percent of the statistics students earned a four-year degree.

The main benefit of allowing students to bypass remedial classes is speed, according to Douglas.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.