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The State Board met. The Legislature kicked off. What's next?

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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.

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week and Emily Thomas has the story… The “short session” has kicked off for the legislature… Fayetteville Tech President Larry Keen was profiled by Business North Carolina… Bennett College is making national headlines…

The State Board of Community Colleges met last week and our own Emily Thomas was on hand. It was a full agenda – covering a range of topics that included strategic planning updates, discussion of the system’s organizational assessment, and how the community college system and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) can work together to streamline data systems that would ultimately impact student completion among North Carolina high school students.

The short session for the North Carolina General Assembly is also officially underway — and we have an in-depth piece taking a look at what the entire educational continuum might expect. As for community colleges, the system priorities include a 1% salary increase for faculty and staff. What else might be taken up by the legislature?

Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood wrote a perspective about the value of free college. Leatherwood discusses the benefits of free college and the impact free college made on the students of Blue Ridge, saying: “When we are able to remove the obstacle of paying for college, we’re empowering students — members of our communities — to take bold steps for their future, which ultimately results in even bolder results for our state’s economic future.”

Our colleague Caroline Parker traveled to Southwestern Community College to meet with outdoor leadership instructor Paul Wolf. Check out her Twitter thread to see the impact Wolf is having on his community, students, and the outdoor industry of western North Carolina. 

And, finally, Bennett College made national headlines this weekend. Scroll down to find out why — and then give our profile of the college a read.

Thank you all for reading Awake58 this week. We appreciate your continued support!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth — EdNC.org


EdNC reads

Organizational assessment, bylaws, and strategic planning among topics discussed by State Board of Community Colleges

The State Board of Community Colleges held its May meeting last week. The agenda included a variety of topics – from amending bylaws regarding Board and system office staff communications, to further discussions about the organizational assessment launched by the system office, to streamlining data systems between DPI and the community college system.

Board members welcomed Dr. Ken Boham at their Friday meeting. Boham will serve as Johnston Community College’s interim president. The Board also approved William Aiken as interim president at Randolph Community College. Current president Dr. Robert Shackleford will retire at the end of June. 

Dr. Mark Poarch, president of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, shared about the need for a comprehensive and cross-sector student management system between DPI and the community college system.

The two groups share roughly 70,000 students through Career and College Promise. Having separate systems causes barriers for students and limits the flow of information that could be used to support student completion across the sectors. By streamlining, students could transition between education systems easily, and it would give educators information that could be used as early warning indicators.

The Board continued their discussion about the system’s organizational assessment. One of the chief concerns in the assessment report was human resources infrastructure. Since June 2021, there have been 54 separations from the system – a turnover rate of 28.57%. Both the Board and President Thomas Stith said they are working diligently to address the issues.

Strategic planning and amending bylaws were also on the May agenda. The Board said it’s making progress toward both and plans to have more in-depth discussions at their July meeting.

The Board also approved an allocation of over $11 million to expand apprenticeship opportunities.

The state legislature’s short session starts this week. Here’s what you need to know.

The short session of the General Assembly is here. Our team explained the why and what of the short session:

The short session is different from the long session in that there are limits to what lawmakers can consider. This document lays out what those limits are, but let’s go through some of them.

Bills related to or affecting the budget can be taken up. Basically, the biennium budget included funding that covers two fiscal years: 2021-22 and 2022-23. During the short session, revisions can be made to that second fiscal year because the state has a better handle on revenues and how much money is actually available.

Beyond the budget, a big thing to consider is that any bill that passed at least one chamber during the long session is open for consideration, as are any bills that were vetoed by Cooper.

What does this all mean for you and the community college system? The legislative priorities for the system include a 1% salary increase and a 4% increase for student funding during the upcoming short session.

NCCCS students are currently funded at 53% of UNC System first-year and sophomore students in comparable classes, the Board’s three-year request document says, “despite smaller average class sizes and faculty credentials that meet or exceed those in the UNC System.”

“This request, when combined with the salary increase, moves our recurring student FTE value over three years to 66% of equivalent UNC courses that earn the same academic credit for students,” the document says. “This increase will bring North Carolina to the average percentage State funding per FTE student of our four surrounding states.”

Gov. Roy Cooper recently released his budget proposal. Our team explains how the governor’s budget would align with the short session priorities, the timing of the session, and the priorities across the entire educational continuum in the full piece.

Perspective | The value of free college

Blue Ridge Community College President Laura Leatherwood opens her recent Perspective by declaring: “Paying for college should not be an obstacle for anyone looking to further their education.”

Leatherwood explained that the college utilized funds from the Longleaf Commitment, Federal Pell Grants, state grants, and the college’s foundation to make it possible for almost 1,000 students to pursue their college education at Blue Ridge.

Leatherwood goes on to explain the benefits of free college:

Some students have had to make difficult decisions in the past, trying to decide what resources their family could do without in order to make the financial sacrifice to attend college. Or, they delayed college attendance until their finances improved. Now students don’t have to make those decisions. Free college helps us remove the financial barrier students have historically faced and, as an added bonus, get more North Carolina residents gainfully employed.

Offering these scholarships helps students turn their dream of furthering their education or improving their career into a reality. Increasing the number of students who are able to attend college and complete a credential or degree grows the workforce and increases earning wages for our students.

Free college also helps ensure that a high quality education is accessible to all, regardless of income or background. It is part of closing the educational attainment gap in North Carolina, which is an important myFutureNC goal.

Leatherwood closes her piece by pointing out the connection between the promise of free college and the state’s attainment goal. To read her full piece, click here.

WEBINAR | Attainment for All: Using Disaggregated Data to Close Equity Gaps

This write-up is from new EdNC team member Alessandra Quattrocchi.

The Hunt Institute convened a webinar this month to discuss how breaking down information by different subgroups, be it age, race, ethnicity, or gender, reveals more nuanced trends that are hidden by aggregated data, or information that only reflects the bigger picture. 

Panelists represented a wide variety of professional backgrounds, ranging from academics, government researchers, private consultants, and more. Each noted how disaggregated data is pertinent to the work they do in their respective fields.

Speakers from the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences that collects and analyzes data, described the importance of grouping information of students by demographics to better understand which students are falling behind on enrollment, academic success, and attainment. 

Lisa Moore, a senior analytical consultant at SAS, emphasized how collecting aggregate data and not contextualizing it through disaggregation does a disservice to those interpreting the information.

“The more you can highlight gaps and disparities (with disaggregated data), the more you can dispel myths and get to the actual truth,” Moore said. 

Looking only at the bigger picture, researchers and data analysts may be unable to identify a problem where there is one, and in turn, their recommendations may not fit the needs of students. 

Michal Kurlaender, a professor of education policy at the University of California at Davis, explained how this phenomenon is relevant to current trends in higher education. Her research has evaluated the enrollment decline across the country’s community colleges. She noted that analyzing this trend without concern for the age, race, ethnicity, or gender of students would misrepresent the issue and hide the fact that “actually men of color are really missing right now from community colleges.”


Around NC

The State Board of Community Colleges finally honored the 2021 community college award winners at an event at the N.C. Executive Mansion last week.

Dr. Larry Keen, president of Fayetteville Technical Community College, will retire at the end of this year. Check out Business North Carolina’s recent interview with Keen.  

Central Piedmont Community College received a $300,000 gift from TowneBank to support its Accelerated Career Training program. The college’s program reaches under-employed adults in Mecklenburg County and provides them with short-term training, no-cost job training, and support services in seven to 15 weeks.

Piedmont Community College continues to host what they call “Pacer Conversations” to focus on community-wide dialogue around critical issues. The most recent conversation was focused on the casino and resort coming to Danville, Virginia.

Haywood Community College received a $1.45 million grant in support of high-demand jobs.

Mitchell Community College is offering a free six-week academic program for first-year college students. “Students gain college experience and develop a network of support prior to beginning their first year.” Students take two courses: College Student Success and Introduction to Communication.

Rockingham Community College broke ground on their new Center for Workforce Development recently. “This new facility will no doubt transform the look of this side of campus, but more importantly, it will transform how our college can train our graduates to enter the workforce in the advanced manufacturing field,” said President Mark Kinlaw.

Lane Brown, who served in the state legislature and played a key role in the founding of Stanly Community College, has passed away. Our condolences to his family.

Wilkes Community College was among North Carolina’s best in a SkillsUSA competition last month. The college brought home 41 medals. Of the 78 WCC students to participate, 21 were high school students who are part of Career & College Promise. 

Wake Technical Community College won two awards at the 2020-2022 Raleigh Environmental Awards. Wake Tech President Scott Ralls said the college won for its partnership with GoTriangle on free bus passes and Park & Ride, and for the sustainable features of the Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence. 

Ferrel Guillory writes about the growing metro areas of Raleigh and Charlotte – highlighting the demographic shifts. He said to meet the challenge of a declining youth population “requires universities, colleges, and schools strengthened to produce a workforce that supports a diverse economy in a more mature society.” 


Other higher education reads

REPORT | Some College, No Credential (SCNC) Student Outcomes

The annual progress report on Some College, No Credential (SCNC) Student Outcomes from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is available. Low student success in higher education is a problem across the country. Approximately 41% of community college students do not return after their first year, and more than a quarter of freshmen at four year colleges do not return for their second year.

In 2019, National Student Clearinghouse reported some 36 million adults had some post secondary experience but no credential. That number rose to 39 million in July 2020. 

Some additional highlights from the report:

  • Women outnumbered men in re-enrollment, credential earning, and perseverance. The share of re-enrollees among minority women was substantially higher than men (63.5% versus 34.6%).
  • Associate degrees were the most common credential earned by Latinx SCNC students (42.5%), whereas Black students were most likely to have completed a certificate (42.7%). Asian and White students persevered at a higher rate than other groups.
  • Of the 60,400 total completers, 70% obtained their credential from a public institution (two- or four-year). Private nonprofit four-year institutions had the highest perseverance rates (64.8%), while community colleges had the lowest (50.2%).

In June 2021, the John M. Belk Endowment, myFutureNC, and the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research launched a pilot project and outreach campaign called NC Reconnect. NC Reconnect works to re-engage adult learners who previously attended a community college but never completed a credential. 

EdNC has closely followed the initiative’s progress. You can see our reporting here.

Bennett College in the news!

Check out this story on Bennett College from USA Today: “Suzanne Walsh, president of Bennett College, at first ignored the email that would lead to the cancellation of nearly 500 overdue bills at her college. After all, she thought at the time, ‘people just don’t reach out and say we can help your students pay off their debts.'”

A group called the Debt Collective purchased the unpaid balances of 500 Bennett College Belles. “Then they canceled it. Its elimination means students no longer have to pay off the debt and those who couldn’t access their transcripts because of overdue bills now have access to their academic records and the ability to continue their educations.”

Tressie Cottom also profiled Bennett College and the debt relief in her column for the New York Times.

We recently visited Bennett College as well. Our profile explains how the college is leaning in on a strategy they have dubbed “Bennett Bold.” Give our piece a read.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.