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Our state deserves to know the finalists for president of the North Carolina Community College System

A note from us

Following Peter Hans’ departure as president of the NC Community College System to serve as president of the UNC System, the community college system launched a search for their next president. 

The system should hold itself to the same level of transparency as the individual colleges.

Colleges send a list of finalists to the state board for preliminary approval. Colleges across the state announce the finalists for their presidential vacancies. The colleges hold town halls where the candidates share their story and vision, take questions, and meet with stakeholders, faculty, and students.

The next system president will lead the billion dollar-plus system of all 58 colleges that our entire state will lean on for workforce development and our COVID-19 economic recovery.

Enrollment is down at the overwhelming majority of the state’s community colleges. Because enrollment drives the funding model for the system and the rolling two-year budget for our colleges, this decline in enrollment could have a significant, multi-year impact. The next president will have to make a case for budget stabilization for the system.

John Gossett, president of A-B Tech, told us the fundamental question ahead without budget stabilization from the legislature would be to address the very mission of the colleges themselves. Scott Ralls, president of Wake Tech, said in a recent Virtual Town Hall that given our state’s pride in our colleges being open-door institutions, we will have to ask ourselves what doors we are willing to close.

And the issues do not stop with enrollment funding.

The IT infrastructure for many colleges is dated at best.

Faculty pay has been frozen since the budget impasse between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly.

The next system president must also continue to fundraise, increase awareness of the options offered by community colleges, and focus on the myFutureNC-endorsed statewide attainment goal.

The task ahead for the next system president is too important for the merits of the finalists not to be vetted and considered by the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who will be affected by the committee’s choice.

Education stakeholders are hopeful the pool has attracted excellent candidates, but too little information is publicly available. Here is the search committee. Here is the job posting. The committee was appointed on June 26, 2020, and according to the system’s website, the committee has met on Sept. 15 and 23; Oct. 1, 12, and 22-23; and on Nov. 6. For the most part, the committee has met in closed session.

If you want to weigh in, you can contact the committee by emailing [email protected]. 

What do you think about the search so far? What characteristics are you looking for in the next system president? Shoot me an email and let me know what you think.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving week. Stay safe, wear a mask, and we will be back in touch soon.


Nation Hahn

Head of Growth,

P.S. — I have been told by numerous stakeholders and folks who have been involved in past system presidential searches that the list of presidential finalists was either released publicly or widely known. If you have any of those records, please send them my way.

EdNC reads

Around NC

State Board update: COVID-19 leads to enrollment declines at community colleges

My colleague Alex Granados attended the virtual State Board of Community Colleges meeting last week. Highlights from his meeting include the following:

  • Enrollment is down at nearly every college — across almost every size of college and program.
  • A State Board of Community Colleges subcommittee discussed a “policy of blanket travel approval” at Cape Fear Community College that has raised eyebrows among at least one local media outlet.
  • The State Board of Community Colleges approved Brian S. Merritt as the next president of McDowell Technical Community College.

Other higher education reads

Higher Ed Budgets for the Post-COVID Era

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation have just released a report titled, “Higher Ed Budgets for the Post-COVID Era.

The report makes a case for states to reconsider across the board cuts to higher education — including community college systems — in the face of the COVID-19 fueled economic downturn. The report states, “Reductions in state support to postsecondary education may be unavoidable, and they will cause harm. However, by rejecting the customary ‘across-the-board’ approach and prioritizing what works, states can implement longer-term solutions that create equitable, accessible, affordable paths to postsecondary credentials that provide upward economic mobility for the most vulnerable populations.”

The report lays out a set of guiding principles as well:

  • Principle 1: Prioritize funding for institutions that can best serve Black, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income students and those institutions that provide timely opportunities for unemployed or underemployed individuals to reskill.
  • Principle 2: Protect and expand need-based financial aid through increased or reallocated investment.
  • Principle 3: Support programs and strategies that advance students’ ability to complete credentials.
  • Principle 4: Expand resources and invest differently to drive economic growth.
  • Principle 5: Evaluate and improve system and institutional cost structures.
Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.