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What's the cost of under-resourcing our community colleges?

A note from us

Hi, Emily here. If you missed last week’s Awake58 edition, you can read it by clicking here.

The cost of under-resourcing our state’s community colleges… A professional development model for faculty… Aligning resources to remove barriers… The State Board’s Presidential Search Committee meets this week… A look at community college transfer… More Impact58 stories…

We’re closing out February with a very full Awake58 edition –  starting first with a piece from Mebane and Nation on the cost of under-resourcing the state’s community colleges. The article talks about economic impact, how the 58 are funded, and the critical role these institutions play in their communities, from mental health to early childhood and much more.

There’s a new model to cultivate teaching and learning excellence on the state’s community college campuses. The Belk Center, in partnership with Achieving the Dream and the N.C. Student Success Center, launched the Teaching and Learning Hubs to support full- and part-time faculty. The hubs were designed to help faculty “learn about, adopt, test, and scale evidenced-based strategies that have increased equitable student success outcomes across the nation.” You can read more about the hubs here. 

We’ve also got more stories from our Impact58 tour. Check out this piece from EdNC’s Alex Granados about Rockingham Community College’s apprenticeship program – RockATOP.

Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood writes about intentional alignment between the college’s offerings and what students need to successfully enter the workforce. She also looks at bridging continuing education courses and curriculum courses. And UNC Charlotte Professor Dr. Mark D’Amico shares research on how community college students experience transfer in North Carolina.

Other items to note:

  • The search committee for the next N.C. Community College System President will meet on Wednesday. View the agenda here.
  • Remember, you can follow along here to track legislative action. EdNC updates the tracker weekly. 
  • myFutureNC released the recording from their 2023 State of Educational Attainment event that took place on Feb. 6. 
  • Applications for the John M. Belk Impact Fellowship program at the Hunt Institute are open until March 13, 2023. Find out more here. 

Have a story idea? You can respond directly to this message or email me at [email protected].

See you around – 

Emily Thomas 

Policy Analyst – 


EdNC reads

The open door and so much more: The cost of under-resourcing our community colleges

As a state, we expect a whole lot of our community colleges, especially our small, rural colleges.

Haywood Community College (HCC) has an annual economic impact of $64.8 million, including $14.5 million in operations spending, $3.4 million in student spending, and $46.9 million in alumni impact, according to a study paid for in part by the N.C. General Assembly.

But those numbers don’t begin to touch the impact and importance of this community college to those it serves.

Some community colleges serve more than one county. HCC serves just Haywood County, which creates both an opportunity and a challenge.

A look at Haywood Community College provides a snapshot into just how much this state expects of our community colleges, and begs the question: Why under-resource our community colleges when they are such important drivers of economic impact?

Find the full article from Mebane and Nation here.

Teaching and Learning Hubs: A new professional development model for N.C. community colleges

North Carolina is home to 58 community colleges,making it the third largest system in the country based on the number of colleges. As “open door” institutions, these colleges serve some of the most diverse student populations whose lived experiences are both broad and wide. Students range from working parents to first generation college-goers to those historically underrepresented in postsecondary education.

These experiences create unique needs among students – pushing community colleges to continually iterate practices and operations to help students succeed. In recent years, many North Carolina community colleges doubled down on the system’s guiding mission to minimize barriers to postsecondary education by revamping course schedules, examining inflexible policies, modifying operating hours, and partnering with employers to deliver relevant workforce training – to name a few.

Faculty practices have also started shifting. In 2021, the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and ResearchAchieving the Dream (ATD), and the N.C. Student Success Center (NC SSC) developed four Teaching and Learning Hubs to support full- and part-time faculty as they work to cultivate a “culture of teaching and learning excellence on their campuses.”

To read the full article, click here. To view upcoming Learning Hub sessions, click here.


RockATOP: Bringing the state’s students into the workforce

North Carolina’s community college system has a $19 billion impact on the state’s economy each year. But that number is made from the individual impacts of the state’s 58 community colleges.

One of those colleges — Rockingham Community College — is making its worth felt through its unique apprenticeship program.

RockATOP stands for the Rockingham Apprenticeship Technical Opportunities Partnership. It can last up to five years, beginning with pre-apprenticeship if students start while they’re still in high school.

So, let’s say you start in junior year of high school. You would start the summer before senior year, taking community college classes and getting on-the-job training at a local business. You would get paid for a total of 40 hours a week at $10 an hour, making money both while you learn and work.

In your senior year, pay goes up to $12.50 an hour. You spend half a day at high school and the rest of the day working and getting on-the-job training. In the years after that, you split your time between community college classes and work.

In the process of participating in the program, you can earn an associate degree from Rockingham Community College, get your tuition and books for free, and get specialized certification, not to mention all the work benefits you may get from the employer you partner with.

Read more of Alex’s article here. 

Around NC

Check out Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood’s perspective on intentional alignment to meet workforce needs.

Read Dr. Mark D’Amico’s perspective on community college transfer in North Carolina. EdNC will have more about transfer and how the state is working together in the coming weeks.

Fourteen North Carolina community colleges signed transfer agreements with Lenoir-Rhyne University last week. You can view Lenoir-Rhyne’s press release here and McDowell Technical Community College’s press release here. 

The inaugural summit of the National Community College Research Alliance kicks off this week in Raleigh. 

Johnston Community College received a $10,000 grant to support the all-county high school robotics team, hosted by the college’s Associate in Engineering program. 

Central Carolina Community College’s lead instructor for history and social sciences, Bianka Rhodes Stumpf, received national recognition in this year’s American Association of Community College’s Dale P. Parnell Faculty Distinction Recognition. 

The practical nursing and associate degree nursing programs at Bladen Community College earned national accreditation status from the National League for Nursing Commission. 

Leaders from the Triangle-based advocacy group El Centro Hispano visited Lenoir Community College last week to discuss serving the region’s Hispanic population.

The Sampson Community College (SCC) Foundation created a new financial award – the Promesa Scholarship – to assist Hispanic students at Sampson Community College. The funds are part of a three-year grant the college received from Dominion Energy in December.  

Other higher education reads

Postsecondary Pathways | Behind the Walls and Post-Release | Supporting Learners Impacted by the Legal System

On March 16 at 2 p.m., the Hunt Institute will host a webinar on postsecondary pathways, with a focus on justice-involved people. Here’s the description for the event:

A college education can be the gateway to opportunity. However, opportunity is not equal and often, it is predicated on identity and experiences. Unfortunately, students with carceral experience (justice-involved/impacted individuals) often encounter cultural and systemic barriers. Such barriers adversely affect these students’ access to needed resources and degree completion. Higher education stakeholders must contend with the structures that are in place for justice impacted students and decide if they are sufficient to ensure the holistic achievement of these learners. This conversation will humanize the experience of justice impacted students, identify the supportive structures that are in place and pinpoint areas where growth is needed.

You can learn more or register for the webinar here.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.