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A spotlight on adult learners and the early college model

A note from us

Hello, Nation here. If you missed last week’s Awake58 edition, which focused on the January State Board of Community Colleges meeting and our preview of the legislative session, you can read it by clicking here.

We recently visited Brunswick and Edgecombe community colleges and shared some takeaways in a photo essay… myFutureNC will hold a key event on the state of educational attainment next week… The NCCCS advisory council will meet this Thursday… 

The legislative session is officially underway as we mentioned last week. The “long session” will likely last through summer — and you can count on the EdNC team to be at the legislature daily covering the twists and turns of the process. We will update you on news related to community colleges in this newsletter weekly, but as a reminder we also have other newsletters, including the EdDaily. For all of our coverage, you can click here to sign-up for our other emails. You won’t regret it.

We will be keeping track of all education-related legislation here. Bookmark it and let us know if you find it helpful! Also let us know if there’s anything you’d specifically like to see regarding community college legislation.

You can find our legislative previews here if you missed them last week:

Early childhood legislative preview

K-12 education legislative preview

Community college legislative preview

Educational equity legislative preview

We recently visited Brunswick and Edgecombe community colleges alongside the NC Reconnect team. Our trip is documented in a photo essay we published last week. Both colleges are part of the third cohort of the NC Reconnect effort. Emily’s photos capture the full two days, including our attempt to build mechanized eagles at Edgecombe and the continuing education efforts in Southport by Brunswick Community College.

Finally, we’ll be tuning into the myFutureNC State of Educational Attainment event next Monday. You can register to attend here.

I’ll see you out on the road,


EdNC reads

Visiting adult learners in Brunswick and Edgecombe counties

I’d encourage you to spend time with this photo essay from our recent travels. Emily’s photos document adult learners, campus leaders, and my own failed attempt to make a mechanized eagle at Edgecombe Community College.

We also spoke with Mike Krause from the John M. Belk Endowment and NC Reconnect team to understand why adult learners have come into focus recently:

Mike Krause, a senior advisor to the John M. Belk Endowment and one of the leads of NC Reconnect, attended the trip.

“The data makes clear that adult learners will be a crucial demographic group for community colleges to focus on in the coming decade,” he said, “and it was evident that at both Edgecombe and Brunswick, they are leading the way on reconnecting adults with higher education.”

“These visits also highlighted how important the word ‘community’ is in community college,” Krause continued. “Edgecombe and Brunswick offer pathways to a college degree, but also serve as hubs for their larger community to learn together and thrive.”

For the full essay, click here.

Q&A | Research reveals the strengths and challenges of the early college model

North Carolina is a national leader in the early college model, according research in the new book “Early Colleges as a Model for Schooling: Creating New Pathways for Access to Higher Education.” Our colleague Alessandra has a question and answer session with the authors this week.

Elizabeth Glennie, one of the book’s co-authors, told Alessandra the system’s cultural impact is significant: “Imagine a first-generation college-goer, who may never have set foot on a college campus and really has no understanding of what life would be like in college, but as an early college student they get to be on the campus and they can use campus resources and interact with college students. It really opens up their eyes and thoughts to the possibility of college, which is one important cultural component of North Carolina’s system.”

I remember a visit to Washington County last year, where county leaders told us exposing their high school students to higher education opportunities was one of the top priorities for the county. Glennie seems to view this as one of the key components of the early college system.

Alessandra also asked them about the future of the model — and I found their answers illuminating:

EdNC: Looking at North Carolina specifically, what do you see as the path forward for the state’s early colleges? 

Edmunds: In North Carolina, there’s certainly room for continued expansion. There are many schools that are still oversubscribed, which suggests that there’s much more interest than these schools can accommodate.

There are a few districts that don’t have early colleges where I think the population could certainly benefit from them. So I would hope that we’ll continue to see some additional small early colleges being implemented.

The other hope is that we can take the lessons learned from early colleges in the state and apply them to the Career and College Promise pathways to be more intentional about outreach, expanding access, and providing support.

I also hope that we start thinking holistically about the education system as well. The early college model proves that we can merge the high school and college systems and it can be good for students. If legislators can think more holistically about these systems, that can help us make better decisions about models of schooling that are beneficial for our state’s students.

Glennie: I think many educational leaders in North Carolina know that we have a good thing going here with the state’s early colleges. We don’t have to persuade them. There is openness to trying out new things and for educators to be empowered to try new approaches in traditional high schools to see what works best for students.

For the rest of the Q&A, click here.

Around NC

Top government, education, business, and nonprofit leaders across North Carolina will convene in person in Raleigh, and virtually across the state, on Monday, Feb. 6 for myFutureNC’s The State of Educational Attainment in North Carolina. Leaders include:

  • Senator Phil Berger, NC State Senate Leader
  • Speaker Tim Moore, Speaker of the NC House of Representatives
  • Machelle Baker Sanders, NC Secretary of Commerce
  • Catherine Truitt, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Eric Davis, Chair, North Carolina State Board of Education
  • John Fraley, Board Chair, myFutureNC
  • Gary Salamido, President & CEO, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce
  • Lynn Good, President & CEO, Duke Energy

You are invited to attend virtually by registering here to learn more about the ways we can all work together to meet the statewide attainment goal and build our future workforce.

The N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) Advisory Council will meet at 10:00 a.m. this Thursday. The meeting will be livestreamed on the N.C. Community College System Office YouTube channel.

The Belk Center is recruiting for a Director of Finance and Human Resources. The job posting can be found here.

The N.C. Community College System and State Board of Community Colleges have selected the recipients for this year’s prestigious statewide excellence awards, according to an official press release from the system. Congratulations are in order for all award winners:

The State Board Awards recognize the top-performing individuals and partners that best represent the North Carolina Community College System and its mission to provide accessible, high-quality education and service.

For 2022-23, the following recognitions were awarded:

Two Distinguished Partners were awarded:

In addition, the I.E. Ready Award for significant statewide contribution to the North Carolina Community College System was awarded to Julian Philpott of Central Carolina Community College.

You can find the full release here.

Other higher education reads

How did Colorado community colleges double their graduation rate? By better meeting student needs

Colorado doubled their community college graduation rate over five years through revamping remedial education, investing in wraparound services, and more. Here is one key takeaway, from Chalkbeat Colorado:

The state reformed remedial education programs so students could do college-level coursework without paying extra for classes that don’t get them credit toward graduation. Instead, students now learn college algebra or English skills through tutoring or additional class time while they’re in a class that leads to credit.

Charles Ansell (vice president for research, policy, and advocacy at Complete College of America) said the practice is good for students because it ends up reinforcing lessons. And it doesn’t damage student morale by making them take a class that doesn’t earn them credit. That keeps students enrolled, Ansell said.

Remedial classes “end up being a real downer because you’re told you’re college material and then the first thing that you’re told is you have to take the classes that you just took in high school,” Ansell said.

The college system has also emphasized ensuring students have basic needs met. More community colleges have food pantries or step in when students face housing insecurity.

For the remainder, click here.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.