A note from Nation
Welcome to Awake58! If you received this email as a forward, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.
The State Board will consider candidates for the system presidency this week… Our faculty profiles continue with a look at an environmental sciences instructor at Pamlico CC… The Belk Center looks at Career and College Promise… A special virtual event featuring a “community college Q&A from an African American perspective” is happening this week…
The final steps of the search for a new NC Community College System president are beginning to unfold.
The State Board of Community Colleges meets this week at Wake Tech’s RTP campus on Tuesday and Wednesday. The primary agenda item for both days is listed as “consideration of candidates for system president.”
We’ve been covering the search process from the beginning — including the timeline laid out by the committee that called for the search to wrap up by the end of the year. According to our sources, committee members have been telling folks they expect to meet that timeline. If our sources are correct, then we expect this week to include interviews of the current finalist pool.
We’ve asked for more transparency in the process. While the meetings are likely to be held in closed session, meaning we can’t listen, you can follow Alex Granados and the Awake58 account on Twitter for any live updates this week.
Thank you for allowing us into your inboxes again this week. We appreciate it.
Head of Growth, EdNC.org
This Pamlico Community College instructor turned his passion for the outdoors into a career in environmental science
Zachary Schnell had no idea what he wanted to do for a career until a chance encounter with a hallmate freshmen year led him to the environmental technology and management program at NC State. Following graduation, he joined the Peace Corps’ Master’s International program and spent two years living and working in the Philippines.
Schnell is now the head of the environmental science program at Pamlico Community College and decided to turn his Peace Corps experience into a month-long study abroad program for four environmental science students in 2018.
“Because of my Peace Corps experience in the Philippines, I said, ‘I think I have the opportunity to make a very unique, very rare study abroad experience, especially at a community college and with very limited resources,’” he told my colleague Molly Osborne. Read more about the study abroad experience Schnell created and his path to becoming a community college instructor in her article.
Sarah Deal, who is a research affiliate at the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, authored a perspective last week looking at Career and College Promise (CCP).
Deal spotlights Pam Eddinger’s remarks at the Herring Lecture to anchor her piece. Eddinger, the president of Bunker Hill Community College, declared, “Like a flash of lightning in the night, the pandemic revealed all the cracks and fissures hidden in the landscape and gave us a stark and unsparing look at the cavernous wealth and attainment gap before us in our Black and Brown urban communities, in the immigrant communities of our gateway cities and in our poor, white communities in the rural regions.”
Deal highlights the Career and College Promise program as one pathway towards closing those stark attainment gaps. She points out that not only are the 58 community colleges spread across the state providing widespread access points, but the depth of the partnerships between colleges and K-12 districts provides touch points for students from an early age.
I want to spotlight this section on data:
“The benefits of Career and College Promise extend beyond increasing student access to higher education. In my own research, I found that students who participated in the program in 2015-2016 and/or 2016-2017 had a higher probability of enrolling in a North Carolina community college after high school, had higher persistence rates, had higher community college graduation rates, and had a higher college GPA when compared to students who did not participate in the program. The Career and College Promise program has all of the right components: free tuition, broad accessibility, support for students, and participation is associated with positive educational outcomes.”
What are your thoughts on CCP? Does Deal’s research track with your own lived experience? Let us know.
Mary Ann Wolf, the Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, sounds an optimistic note on the role of Career and Technical Education (CTE) as the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt: “A bright side of this extraordinarily difficult time is that as employers have had to pivot in terms of how they do business, CTE can facilitate students’ opportunities to pivot alongside them, and learn new technologies that they will undoubtedly need to be successful in the future.”
Check out her full piece and the accompanying video by clicking below.
Jane Stancill from the NC Community College System office flagged this event for us. Here is the description:
“Deciding what’s next isn’t always easy. Even if you know what you want to do, finding the right path to make it happen can be challenging. This is especially true for young African American men, many of whom may appreciate seeing relatable examples of how others have found their paths and getting information about how and where to begin.”
“That’s why the NC Community College System’s Your Hire Education campaign is hosting a virtual panel event Thursday, December 10, 4-5 p.m. to encourage African American males across NC to consider community college for their higher education plans in the new year. Our four successful panelists, highlighted in the attached flyer, are excited to share their higher education stories, all of which began at a North Carolina community college. They hope to provide you valuable insights, ideas and information about how they made it to where they are today. Not only will they be sharing their stories, but they will be answering your pressing questions – from starting the career journey to how to pay for it.”
Jane also let us know the system office has launched a new Facebook page aimed at parents called Their Hire Education. The page states it will be a hub for parents and families as they weigh their options for higher education.
In September, Guilford Tech CC faced a ransomware attack that shut the college down for a day. In the months since, the college has faced questions around the fall-out for students and faculty. In a recent release, GTCC outlined the steps they are taking on behalf of those impacted by the attack.
The Greensboro News & Record reports that the college still isn’t sure how many people were impacted.
Other higher education reads
Declines in community college enrollment this fall have been one of the dominant storylines in our state and nationally. The 74 takes a look at the national trends and sounds an alarm bell around the primary driver: “disappearing” male students.
The factors outlined ranged from students needing to withdraw to meet the economic needs of their family, lack of access to technology, and more.
The piece outlines one factor I’ve heard many community college leaders across our state mention: “The dramatic spring shutdown of K-12 schools severed students from the college advisers who keep them on a college track. The sharpest drop was among first-time freshmen, a plunge of nearly 19 percent, which is 19 times higher than the pre-pandemic loss rate.”
What do you think? Have these issues played out on your campus? What do you think can be done to address the decline moving forward?
EdSurge has a series of pieces out looking at remedial/developmental education. A column from a community college leader in Texas points out a sobering piece of research that indicates only 28% of community college students in developmental courses will end up earning a degree within eight years. The author issues a call for expanding corequisite remediation — a process that allows for students to take remediation courses and credit-bearing courses at the same time.
EdSurge also published a piece with a provocative title from one of their reporters asking: “Do Professors With a ‘Deficiency’ Mindset Prevent Community College Students From Earning Credit?”
Check out both pieces and share your thoughts by clicking reply to this email. We will have our own series looking at developmental education in North Carolina coming out in early 2021. Stay tuned.
Higher Ed Dive looks at recent college completion data of six-year graduation rates of undergraduate students who began in fall of 2014. The data shows the rate of completion is continuing to slow. One reason? “Slight decreases in completion rates among traditional-age and community college students drove the slowdown, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.”
Robert Smith, the African American businessman who famously paid off $34 million in student loan debt for 400 graduates of Morehouse College, is back in the news for a new philanthropic push, the Student Freedom Initiative. SFI aims to provide an “income-contingent financing alternative” to allow students to borrow money beyond federal loans, grants, and scholarships. It will be a fascinating experiment.