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One college's playbook for student success and economic mobility

A note from us

The system president job posting to happen this month… Dr. Vern Lindquist was named the new president of Johnston Community College… We published a series profiling Wilkes Community College’s “playbook” for social mobility and student success… Our Impact58 series continued to roll out with a look at Edgecombe Community College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, among others… 

Hello, Nation here. Welcome to the first Awake58 of 2023 — and welcome back for a new semester for those on campus!

We are looking back — and ahead — as we begin this new year. Over the holiday, we published features on Cape Fear Community College, Edgecombe Community College, Forsyth Technical Community College, Lenoir Community College, and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College as we continue to publish all of our economic impact stories from the Impact58 blitz.

We also covered the State Board of Community Colleges meeting and system president search committee meeting immediately prior to the holiday. You may have missed our coverage, but the search committee held a significant debate about the education requirements for the next system president, the level of transparency for the finalists for the role, and the new president for Johnston Community College. You can find Hannah McClellan’s write-up here.

And we continue to look ahead at the trends that may influence higher education this year.

Scott Ralls’ quote in Business North Carolina sums up well a message I’ve heard from numerous community college stakeholders ahead of 2023: Collaboration will be essential in an rapidly evolving higher education landscape. Ralls told Business North Carolina:

“(Community) colleges are working with each other because there’s so much growth. We were all together down in Asheboro about a month ago talking about this. We don’t have any choice. It’s been said, these are regional-scale projects. So, they’re going to require regional collaboration. The great thing about all this, but the challenge is, we all have something that’s like a one-of-a-kind regional project. The Fujifilm expansion in Holly Springs is our biggest biopharma facility to be built in North Carolina, ever. Think about all of that coming along at one particular time.”

As you think about the larger trends likely to impact community colleges in North Carolina in 2023, what is on your mind? Enrollment? Adult learners? What the General Assembly will do with the budget request from the system? We’d love to know more. Please feel free to reply directly to this email.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth, EdNC.org


EdNC reads

Our series on the "Wilkes Community College playbook" for student success and economic mobility

This series from our own Mebane Rash takes a look at role Wilkes Community College has played in economic development for their service area. The college has opted to zero in on social mobility for their region — and this work began with wraparound services for students.

Here is how Mebane describes their approach:

Mebane explains why this approach might be the “future of work” through her series — and through a story Wilkes Community College Vice President of Rural Innovation Zach Barricklow shared pre-pandemic that proved prescient:

Barricklow lives in Sparta, which has a population of 1,800 but also had fiber optic internet before Miami or Atlanta.

In Sparta, Barricklow and his family joined other professionals who were opting out of city life and moving to the mountains where a combination of high-speed internet and good schools for their children were allowing software engineers, data analysts, writers, consultants, and entrepreneurs to work for companies in Charlotte and Raleigh but also Chicago and Los Angeles.

“They travel when they need to,” said Barricklow, “but they live and enjoy the lifestyle of the mountains.”

Barricklow told state leaders that “when it comes to professional services, when it comes to remote workers, the need to be in-person is largely a construct of our own minds. If we have great internet and we are committed to doing our work and doing it well, then you can do it from anywhere.”

The pandemic proved him right for those who have grown up in the area and those choosing to move there.

Click here to start reading the Wilkes series.

ICYMI: N.C. Community College System aims to post president job beginning of January

The system president search should be moving into a new phase as the system hopes to post the president’s job posting in the near future. The committee has debated several elements of the job. Hannah captured the debate in her piece:

On Wednesday, the committee discussed whether a master’s or terminal degree should be required for candidates – a topic that has come up at multiple committee meetings. Most committee members eventually seemed to agree on requiring a graduate degree and listing a terminal degree as a preference. Dr. David Heatherly, president of Coastal Carolina Community College, said listing any preference as a requirement might unnecessarily exclude talented candidates. The committee did not reach a decision.

Out of the more than 1,300 people who responded to the presidential survey, 50% said the minimum requirement should be a doctorate from an accredited institution. Twenty-nine percent said a master’s degree should be the minimum, 14% said a professional degree, and 8% said a bachelor’s.

Prior to contacting candidates, Carraway said the committee is working on identifying “bragging points” for the system, along with its biggest challenges. She also said the Board must decide an upper limit of compensation ahead of the search. On Wednesday, the committee also talked about whether or not to make finalists public in order to let candidates know upfront.

“We talked about the importance of transparency and confidentiality, especially when we begin to deal with the actual candidates,” Carraway said.

We welcome your thoughts on the characteristics the committee debated. Do you believe the position of system president requires a minimum educational level? Should the system publish the names of the finalists for the position? Just reply directly to this email with your thoughts.

Impact58 | We continue to look at the economic impact of the 58

Our Impact58 visits concluded in the fall. We were honored that all 58 community colleges opened their doors to us so we could explore your economic impact, Career and College Promise, your role in early childhood education, and more.

Cape Fear Small Business Center and incubator Genesis Block create a pipeline for diverse-owned businesses

Our article on Cape Fear Community College’s economic impact focuses on their work with industry — including business incubator Genesis Block. Genesis Block focuses on creating a pipeline of diverse entrepreneurs in Wilmington:

“If you can somehow connect the foundation that comes from the educational framework that community colleges already have, and tie that in with organizations more upskilling-driven … it really provides a good dynamic to produce productive businesses,” said Girard Newkirk, CEO of Genesis Block.

‘Heroes train here’: The impact of Edgecombe Community College

Edgecombe Community College’s economic impact is seen through the prism of their work around Basic Law Enforcement Training, nursing, and other essential jobs in Molly Osborne’s article:

If you drive by ECC’s Tarboro campus, you will see a sign out front saying, “Heroes train here.” Many of ECC’s students are training for jobs in essential fields like health care and law enforcement — and once they graduate, they often stay and fill needed positions within Edgecombe County.

Students who complete the nursing program, for example, can earn an average median annual wage of $65,662 and earn an additional $531,200 over the course of their lifetime. In FY 2019-20, Edgecombe County had a shortage of 129 nurses, which ECC is working to fill with their nursing program graduates.

Forsyth Tech builds nationally recognized apprenticeship program for adults

Forsyth Tech’s Learn and Earn Apprenticeship Program (LEAP) was profiled during Emily Thomas’ time on Forsyth Tech’s campus. LEAP is a college-sponsored apprenticeship focused on adults over the age of 24. Emily met several apprentices who showcase why the program matters:

Jashun Reed, a father of four, has worked with his current employer for years. Going back to school used to be out of reach because he couldn’t take time off work.

“Being an apprentice, he gets paid for work and school,” said Danielle Rose, director of experiential learning at Forsyth Tech. “He can now support his family and better his education.”

Lenoir Community College’s Centro Educativo Latino aims to fill gaps

At Lenoir Community College, 14% of the student population is Hispanic, according to 2021-22 data. Centro Educativo Latino at LCC offers around 70 Spanish-language workforce courses, including HVAC, welding, and auto mechanics.

“For the longest time, the Latino never had a place to go for higher education,” Cotto said. The center has “opened doors into the socio-economic cycle they have been living in, but did not feel accepted in.”

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College wants to lead the ‘edu-tourism’ business

Anna Pogarcic visited Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to explore their economic impact — and “edu-tourism” was one offered up by the college. One story offered up by RCCC was tied to their work with machine toolmaker Okuma to offer an academy:

The academy at RCCC serves all of the company’s operations in North, Central, and South America, meaning employees from all over this part of the world fly into Kannapolis for training — something the college is dubbing “edu-tourism.”

“When they do (travel here), guess what? They stay in hotels, they pay travel expenses, they buy meals. They’re here for a week or two weeks, and they do entertainment things, and they spend money,” Craig Lamb, the college’s vice president of corporate and continuing education, said.

You may access the entire series here.


Around NC

The Department of Public Instruction showcased the new StudentTracker dataset to the State Board of Education last week. EdNC’s Alex Granados reported: “Basically, this data will allow the state to look at what happens to its graduating high school students when they move on to the next phase of their academic career anywhere in the country: where they enroll or transfer, whether they graduate or not, how long it takes them, and more.”

Anyone who wants can join myFutureNC virtually on Monday, Feb. 6 from 3 to 3:45 p.m., according to an invitation from the organization. They will “share the top findings from the North Carolina’s State of Educational Attainment Report and propose solutions to address the state of emergency around workforce talent and the education pipeline in NC.” They “will highlight success stories and forecast needs and clear solutions to help us achieve the educational attainment goal of 2 million degrees or industry-valued credentials by 2030 among North Carolinians ages 25-44.” You can sign up here to attend the event.”

This webinar will engage policymakers and education leaders to learn more about what barriers transfer students face, how institutions can better support transfer students, and they ways state education policy influences the ability to transfer seamlessly between institutions. This webinar includes Vance-Granville Community College president Rachel Desmarais.

This webinar series will discuss the role of two-year institutions in re-engaging adult learners. Nearly 50 percent of North Carolinians between 25-64 have less than a postsecondary degree or credential. In order to ensure that we are prepared to meet North Carolina’s workforce needs and earn a life-sustaining wage, this population needs to re-engage with higher education. This webinar includes Blue Ridge Community College President Laura Leatherwood, John M. Belk Senior Advisor Mike Krause, and Sen. Deanna Ballard.

Bladen’s County strategic plan includes a leadership program in partnership with Bladen Community College.

Caldwell Community College named Liz Silvers their vice president of instruction in the fall. The High County Press profiled Silvers’ career.

Caldwell Community College provided Adrienne Childres with a start to her educational journey in her 40s — and now she is off to the Ivy League. Check out her inspiring story here.

Durham Technical Community College announced the opening of a new campus location focused on customized industry training in Research Triangle Park (RTP) in partnership with the Research Triangle Foundation of NC.

Guilford Technical Community College received a $50,000 grant from Bank of America to “help bolster the college’s male minority mentoring initiative to support successful student outcomes in STEM industry programs.”

Haywood Community College has officially opened their new Health Sciences Building.

Dr. Vern Lindquist is the new president at Johnston Community College. He is the fourth president of the college.

Johnson C. Smith University President Clarence Armbrister announced that he will retire as president this June: “It is a bittersweet moment for me and my family because we love this university and the unparalleled opportunities HBCUs like ours provide for thousands of students across the country each year,” he wrote in his message.

Wake Technical Community College was profiled by Business North Carolina. The feature looks at Wake Tech’s growth, success in securing bonds, and a look ahead at what is next for the college.


Other higher education reads

Seven higher education trends to watch in 2023

Higher Ed Dive takes a look at seven trends in higher education they believe will impact 2023. The trends include financial aid tweaks, student loan forgiveness, and college consolidations.

And, of course, enrollment trends:

Institutions suffered across the board — community colleges, four-year public colleges and for-profits. Less-selective colleges and two-year institutions bore the brunt of these declines.

Some data points, however, should encourage the sector. Enrollment at historically Black colleges and universities rose by 2.5% between fall 2021 and fall 2022. And between fall 2020 and today, enrollment at HBCUs inched up by just under a percentage point.

Also, undergraduate enrollment at primarily online colleges jumped by more than 3% between fall 2021 and fall 2022.

Skepticism of colleges’ value could push down student counts. And the so-called birth dearth during the Great Recession is arriving for higher education, shrinking the contingent of high school graduates available to enroll in college — and meaning enrollment will likely continue to wane.

For the remainder of the article, click here. What trends do you believe will impact our community colleges? I’d love to hear from you.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.