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The future of rural colleges — and College Advising Corps in the spotlight

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 — EdNC’s newsletter focused on community colleges and the postsecondary landscape in North Carolina. We appreciate you allowing us into your inbox this week.  If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter. If you missed last week’s edition of Awake58, find it here.

A spotlight on College Advising Corps… Forsyth Technical Community College unveiled a new campaign aimed at adult learners… Randolph Community College announced their interim president… The UNC System’s strategic plan refresh includes a focus on adult learners and veterans…

Good morning!

I returned to Alessandra and Emily’s stories from the 2022 commencement season this weekend for a needed dose of inspiration. I thought back to the opening of one of the best romantic comedies, “Love Actually,” when Hugh Grant, as the narrator, notes that if he feels gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks back to the arrivals gate at the airport where you see all manner of emotions showcased. I feel similarly about commencement season. From adult learners who are finding a new journey, to students who are about to transfer to a four-year college, to students who have earned a credential that is going to help provide real social mobility to their family.

A common theme from our travels in recent years has related to the need for college advisors to assist high school students as they consider their postsecondary journeys. College Advising Corps has provided one answer for institutions and counties across the state. Emily Thomas profiles their work this week in a piece that is worth your time.

Last week, our team at EdNC gathered together with education stakeholders from across the state to discuss issues from across the educational continuum. Emily and I were fortunate enough to lead a panel conversation with Pitt Community College Vice President of Student Services Johnny Smith and Vance-Granville Community College President Rachel Desmarais. We focused the conversation around rural community colleges as anchor institutions — an important conversation for the state, given our 78 rural counties and the fact that our state has the second-highest rural population in the country after only Texas.

Topics of conversation included both the opportunities and challenges of proximity to urban areas and natural resources alike, the importance of collaborations and partnerships to serve students and industry, and the need to better serve diverse student populations. We also examined the shifting business models for higher education more broadly — ranging from the opportunities to partner with other higher education institutions across service areas, the need to shift business operations and schedules to serve adult learners in specific, and the continued upside of online learning. We touched on the challenges — including four-year institutions investing in adult leader and work-based learning as well. We’ve seen increasing evidence of this emphasis — including the UNC system’s refresh of their strategic plan to include an emphasis around adult learners and veterans.

We look forward to continuing the conversation with all of you. If you have thoughts on the future of our rural institutions, I would love to hear them — simply reply directly to this email.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —


EdNC reads

How College Advising Corps is filling the college counselor gap and helping students prepare for life after high school

How many of you have heard of College Advising Corps? I would encourage you to spend time with this profile of CAC that Emily produced. College Advising Corps’ mission is to “increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented high school students who enter and complete higher education.”

How does this all work?

The organization uses two program models to serve high school students – in-school and virtual. The in-school model places trained, recent college graduates on high school campuses. Advisers collaborate with school staff to connect with students, helping them navigate the college admissions process. This includes help with FAFSA applications, SAT/ACT fee waivers, and more. Advisers provide guidance in addition to the existing counseling staff at the high school.

Virtual advisers connect with students via video chat, email, telephone call, and text messages.

The service provided by the advisers is free to the high schools and the students and is funded through the AmeriCorps program. Advisers encourage high school students to explore all postsecondary options, including obtaining credentials from two- and four-year institutions, career pathways, and military enlistment. They work with students to develop a list of choices that match their future goals.

North Carolina has a significant CAC presence with advisers in 72 out of our 100 counties — with a goal to grow their presence in the very near future.

To learn more about CAC, give Emily’s piece a read by clicking here.

Around NC

In case you missed it, Gov. Roy Cooper is providing $5.3 million dollars for “summer accelerator grants” for community college students, and we published an explainer on how they can be utilized.

The “Our State, Our Work” initiative by ncIMPACT launched last week, and WUNC has the story: “Thirty-seven North Carolina counties will participate in a pilot program to train young people for careers in information technology and other fields. The initiative is focused on people aged 16 to 24 who struggled with staying in school or college during the pandemic.”

The UNC system strategic plan refresh includes an emphasis on adult learners and military veterans.

We appreciate so many institutions opening up their doors for us and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of N.C. as part of the Extra Miles Tour. We have recently visited Cabarrus County, Chatham County, Lee County, Mecklenburg County, Moore County, and Rowan County.

Our congratulations goes out to the Caldwell Community College Cobras baseball team for finishing third in the NJCAA Division 3 World Series!

Forsyth Technical Community College is launching a new campaign focused on adult learners. Per their press release: “The campaign to connect with adult learners will include direct outreach and support to reconnect with adults in the area who previously earned some college credits, but left without completing a degree or certification; special events and presentations on campus and in the community to showcase the college’s many programs and opportunities; and a robust digital marketing and advertising campaign designed to reach and connect with more adult learners.” Forsyth Tech is part of a cohort of colleges launching adult learner programs. The cohort also includes Caldwell, Central Carolina, Lenoir, and Wilkes community colleges.

James Sprunt Community College has unveiled a “newly modernized” brand, including the tagline: Join our family. Build your future.”

Nash Community College has brought on a new marketing agency to help with the college’s strategic marketing efforts.

The North Carolina School of Science and Math officially opened its Morganton campus last week.

Randolph Community College named William Aiken as the interim president.

What other stories have we missed? Drop us a line by replying directly to this email with anything we should be featuring in this section!

Correction: In last week’s newsletter, we mistakenly included news about and a link to the incorrect Wayne Community College. We apologize for this error.

Other higher education reads

Around the NC10

In NC10 news, Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins sat down with WBTV to reflect on his career as he approaches retirement; NASA selected Fayetteville State for the new Space Accelerator Challenge; and North Carolina A&T University received a $2 million dollar investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support a new innovation center for farm businesses.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.