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A new commission emerges to look at best practices in education

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Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. We hope you will stay a while. If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

The Hunt-Lee Commission kicks off… Colleges are seeing mixed results around enrollment… The work underway for adult learners in NC is in the national spotlight…

I am writing this edition of Awake58 from Charlotte where the new Hunt-Lee Commission just kicked off on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College.

My colleague Mebane Rash and I sat with former state Sen. Howard Lee and state Sen. Michael Lee to discuss the new commission:

According to the chairs, the work of the commission will “envision education for the future” and set the stage for generations to come.

Howard Lee said, “It turns out The Hunt Institute is the organization that rises above a lot of the single interests that people have — especially partisanism — and allows us to think more broadly.” He wants to see how all the interests and priorities “mash together.”

“What you end up having,” said Michael Lee, “is the education continuum in one room.”

For the full story, click here.

The Senate Higher Education Committee approved two appointments to the State Board of Community Colleges last week. If approved by the full Senate, Lisa Estep will return to the Board, while Thomas Looney will serve as a new member. Chairman Breeden Blackwell was not reappointed. Anna Pogarcic has the story below.

If you missed it last week, be sure to spend time with Anna Pogarcic’s write-up on the most recent State Board meeting to better understand some of the issues the Board has been wrestling with of late.

Last Friday, I traveled to the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College. FTCC staff showcased their partnership with the military to train, retrain, and transition service members. According to Mark Sorrells, senior vice president of academic and student services, roughly 25% of FTCC’s student body has a military connection. Given their proximity to Fort Bragg, this is perhaps unsurprising, but they also showcased their nursing program that brings in Army medics from all over the country to equip them with the certifications they need to transition to civilian life.

We also had a chance to check in on the progress underway for the new Carolina Cyber Network. Look for a story on our visit in the weeks to come.

We will be taking a break next week for Labor Day weekend — and we will return to your inbox the week following. Thank you for reading and have a great week.

See you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

Blessed by Cooper, Berger, and Moore, bipartisan Hunt-Lee Commission gets underway

The Hunt Institute just launched the Hunt-Lee Commission, “which will identify and apply high-impact strategies for strengthening systems across the education continuum in North Carolina,” according to the press release.

North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt is the chair emeritus. Former state senator Howard Lee, a Democrat, and current state senator Michael Lee, a Republican, are the chairs. We sat with them for an interview this week:

Back in February 2018, Jeremy Anderson, president of Education Commission of the States, said relative to other states where education policy is moving by “leaps and bounds,” leaders across North Carolina need to build relationships that allow them to work across difference. He noted the need for “an umbrella” to “unify these kind of things and make it work.”

Howard Lee said today at the launch of the Hunt-Lee Commission, “We’ve got this under one umbrella,” adding later, “the response from all segments has been really exciting to see what can be done through this process.”

Blue Ridge Community College president Laura Leatherwood, N.C. Community College System president Thomas Stith, and other postsecondary names you will recognize are part of the commission.

Read the story for more details.

Senate Higher Education Committee approves two appointments to State Board

The Senate Higher Education Committee approved two appointments to the State Board of Community Colleges, according to Anna Pogarcic:

Lisa Estep, an accountant, previously served on the Board from 2015-2020 as well as on the New Hanover Board of Education. During her time on the SBCC, she chaired the audit committee.

“She’s not just incredibly qualified, but she’s a wonderful person and dedicated to the state,” Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, said.

Thomas Looney, the other appointee, is a retired Lenovo executive. He has previously chaired the Board of Trustees for Wake Technical Community College and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. When he left Wake Tech, he created a $25,000 endowment to support leadership development through the college’s Student Government Association.

“Tom puts 110% in everything he does, and I’m really looking forward to what he can do for our community college board,” Sen. David Craven, R- Guilford, Randolph, said.

This also means current Board Chair Breeden Blackwell has not been appointed for another term.

The full Senate still needs to vote on these appointments. If approved, the two appointees will serve until June 30, 2027.

Around NC

A-B Tech has now added a vaccine incentive for their employees — if you show proof of vaccination as an A-B Tech faculty or staff member, you will receive $300 on your next paycheck. This is in addition to a previously announced $150 gift card to the campus book store for students who provide evidence of vaccination. On Friday, Fayetteville Tech shared with me that they are launching a similar program. If your college does something similar, let us know.

Alamance Community College secured additional funding from their county commissioners to begin work on two new buildings for the college.

Beaufort County Community College’s fall semester was featured by local TV station WITN last week.

Blue Ridge Community College received a $100,000 donation from Sentara RMH Foundation: “Sentara RMH Medical Center has been a vital partner of Blue Ridge Community College for decades,” said BRCC Educational Foundation Executive Director Amy Laser Kiger. “Their financial support through the BRCC Educational Foundation dates back to the early ’90s and now totals $1,648,006 — making them one of the very largest investors in our Foundation’s history.”

Central Carolina Community College’s new video game course was written up in the Chatham News + Record.

James Sprunt Community College continues to see an increase in enrollment, according to local press reports.

Stanly Community College and NC A&T University announced a new articulation agreement.

South Piedmont Community College has seen an increase in enrollment entering into the fall: “With in-person, online, and hybrid offerings, enrollment headcount is trending upward by over four percent compared to 2020. More than 3,500 students are enrolled in fall classes and this number is expected to rise as the semester progresses.”

Vance-Granville Community College graduated their fourth truck driving class recently.

Wayne Community College’s COVID-19 precautions were written up in the local press.

Wilkes Community College president Jeff Cox discussed the college’s enrollment with the local paper: “With launching the new WCC Education Promise program and with the hopes of COVID being mostly behind us, we hoped we would get back a good percentage of the 16% drop in enrollment we had last year. Instead, we are down another 6%… I think the tight job market and the increase in starting wages is encouraging high school graduates to go straight to work instead of going to college. I also think COVID continues to be a negative drag on enrollment.”

Other higher education reads

How to connect 2-year students to a 4-year school — and a career

Strada Education spotlights a program between Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University that is focused on closing the “leaks” in the transfer process between the two institutions:

NOVA and George Mason came together to reduce this so-called “transfer leakage,” and one of the ways they succeed is by simplifying the transition from NOVA to George Mason. From the moment students enter NOVA through the ADVANCE program, they can access the services and benefits provided to George Mason students — with no lingering fear that when their two-year education is complete, another admissions process looms.

“We’ve reimagined the word ‘transfer,’” said Marc Austin, executive director of professional education and academic ventures at George Mason. “Through partnership and integration between our institutions, being in the ADVANCE program means that when you’re a NOVA student, you’re a Mason student.”

For more details — including some takeaways for your own college — give it a read by clicking here.

The Big Blur: An Argument for Erasing the Boundaries Between High School, College, and Careers —and Creating One New System That Works for Everyone

Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit focused on workforce, is out with a report called “The Big Blur” that issues a call for blending the last two years of high school and the first two years of postsecondary:

This new vision for grades 11 through 14 positions young people for postsecondary success by eliminating the need for students to chart their own courses through unfamiliar territory and overcoming all of the hurdles involved in applying to, getting into, and completing college. Early and frequent career-connected work experiences would give students a stronger path toward employment and advancement. This system redesign would create more efficient and transparent processes and promote more equitable outcomes for all young people, bolstering our nation’s economic strength and security.

Here is the executive summary. Here is the full report.

How 5 N.C. community colleges are empowering students who have stopped out

Two different articles last week placed a spotlight on the recently launched effort focused on adult learners.

University Business has the following quote from Durham Tech president JB Buxton explaining some of the rationale behind the effort:

“As we work to meet the diverse needs of employers in the Research Triangle region, we recognize the critical importance of helping working adults return to higher education to up- and re-skill—especially those who bring substantial educational experience but need to refresh their skills for new roles. In collaboration with community colleges and partners across North Carolina, this initiative will help us to build and sustain the versatile workforce needed to support a strong and inclusive economy in the years to come.”

Inside Higher Ed has a piece looking at broader enrollment trends that includes a mention of the campaign and a look at the work underway at Blue Ridge Community College. Click here to give their story a read.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.