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We have a budget. How will it be implemented?

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Hi, Hannah here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed our last newsletter featuring the AdvanceNC collaborative, you can find it on our website.

A look at the community college system’s efforts to operationalize the new budget… Free drop-in child care for students at Cape Fear Community College… How the state’s 58 community colleges are investing in mental health resources…  Wayne Community College’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month… ApprenticeshipNC’s presence at the North Carolina State Fair and a case for investing in apprenticeships… Centering community at Halifax Community College…

As you can see, we have quite the full Awake58 edition this week.

First, we have an update on the new state budget, from the State Board of Community Colleges meeting last week. The new budget went into effect on Oct. 3. Now, the system and state’s community colleges have to operationalize the budget. Here’s an excerpt from the article.

On Friday, the State Board approved an initial budget allocation package that contained the 4% salary increase in 2023-24 and other employee benefit increases, funds for enrollment growth, and additional funds for basic skills and child care grants. In a separate item, the Board also approved allocations for up to $14.2 million to complete the rural broadband project.

You can find the budget allocation package in the 2023-24 state aid allocations and budget policies document.

In November, the Board is set to approve funding for faculty recruitment and retention, nursing faculty salary increases, and capital improvements, according to NCCCS Director of Government Relations Alex Fagg.

Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood, also the president of the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents (NCACCP), said the presidents were particularly grateful for all the individual college allocations included in the budget.

“On behalf of our 58 community college presidents and our colleges, we say thank you to our General Assembly members for the funding allotted to our colleges and for the raises for our employees,” Leatherwood said. “This is a really good money budget for us, and we got a lot of what we asked for — not just what we asked for, but what we needed to do the work we do.”

During her remarks, Leatherwood specifically highlighted the budget’s accreditation provisions, which require colleges and universities to change accreditors every 10 years. “We don’t know what that looks like yet and how we will navigate that,” she said. The November State Board meeting will include further discussion on these accreditation provisions, NCCCS staff said.

What is coming up at your college concerning the new accreditation provisions? We’d love to hear from you. Reply directly to this email or email me at [email protected].

Last week, my colleague Liz Bell published a piece looking at Cape Fear Community College’s free drop-in child care program for students. According to Cape Fear President Jim Morton, the idea for the program originated when the college starting looking into how it could triple the size of its nursing program.

CFCC surveyed students to find out. In nursing and other programs, those students said a lack of affordable child care was a major barrier to learning and graduating.

“When you identify these barriers, let’s be creative and see how we can address them,” Morton said.

This week, I’ll be continuing to look out for budget impacts, along with any technical correction bill of the budget. Nation is continuing his (much-deserved) vacation. Check out his Twitter for some quality photo updates.

We’ll see you out on the road!

Hannah McClellan

EdNC Senior Reporter

EdNC reads

State Board starts operationalizing community college budget items

The State Board of Community Colleges reviewed state aid allocations and budget policies for the 2023-24 fiscal year at its meeting Oct. 20, discussing the timeline for operationalizing items in the new state budget for the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS).

The new state budget, passed on Sept. 22 and effective on Oct. 3, includes about $1.5 billion in both years of the spending plan for the NCCCS. The total includes a 7% raise over two years for most community college personnel, along with significant investments in student programs and individual college allocations.

“This is a very favorable budget for us,” NCCCS President Dr. Jeff Cox told the State Board.

Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood, also the president of the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents (NCACCP), highlighted a number of items from the budget that community colleges are working to operationalize.

  • Changes to local boards of trustees at each community college. The budget’s new selection process for local boards of trustees will now include eight trustees appointed by the General Assembly, and four trustees elected by the board of commissioners of the county in which the main campus of the college is located. The budget also outlines processes for boards of commissioners in other counties served by the college to appoint trustees.
  • Impacts on community colleges from the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” legislation, which among other things, prohibits video and audio recording of minors without parental consent and requires schools to update parents on the preferred names of minors.Leatherwood said these requirements will impact community colleges, namely through dual enrollment and early college students.
  • The provisions for early graduation laid out in the budget, which mandate that students be allowed to graduate in three years under a 22-hour track. Leatherwood said this could impact CCP enrollment at colleges.
  • Other budget impacts include changes in multicampus funding and prohibitions against colleges and universities compelling political speech.

“Those are just a few of the things that we are navigating and operationalizing and worrying about on our campuses,” she said. “So we have a lot on our plates as presidents.”

Read more from the State Board of Community Colleges meeting at our website.

Cape Fear Community College is offering free drop-in child care for students. Here’s how.

Cape Fear Community College launched a free drop-in child care program this semester, becoming the only community college to provide free child care for up to four hours per day while parents and caregivers attend class, take tests, or study. In January the program will move to a larger space, increasing its capacity from 20 to 40 children.

Solving a nationwide child care crisis is too much for one college to tackle. But that hasn’t stopped Morton and other leaders from asking what they can do.

Morton started having conversations with the college’s foundation and other community members. Providing child care at no cost to students was a priority, he said.

Enter a distinctive financial opportunity: the $1.3 billion New Hanover Community Endowment, created by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners from the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health in 2020. The endowment is focused on education, social and health equity, community safety, and community development.

The college applied for a grant from the endowment while community donors committed to matching those funds. The endowment and the donors each gave $250,000 for the college to open a free drop-in child care program for students.

“Even impacting a few students, being able to help them change their lives, is immeasurable,” said Mary Ellen Naylor, dean of health sciences at the college, who oversees both the drop-in program and Bonnie Sanders Burney Child Development Center, the full-day on-campus child care center. “This will allow us to touch so many students and help them on their journey to success.”

Read Liz’s full report on the program at

At community colleges, student success includes mental health

As the United States faces an “unprecedented mental health crisis,” community colleges across North Carolina are working to bolster their resources for students.

For many of the state’s 58 community colleges, such work includes training for faculty and staff, along with holistic, wrap-around resources for students.

Dr. Kara Finch, the dean of public services at Stanly Community College (SCC), told EdNC last spring that focusing on mental health is crucial for campuses across the state. Finch, who is also the head of the college’s human services program, won the 2022-23 N.C. Community College System’s (NCCCS) Excellence in Teaching Award, in part because of her efforts to reduce barriers for students and share mental health best practices.

“I found my purpose here at Stanly, not only to be an educator and an effective leader, but to really bring out the importance of us being a trauma-informed campus and recognizing mental health challenges in our students, and even faculty and staff,” said Finch, who is also an active Mental Health First Aid instructor. “I’ve been able to train hundreds and hundreds of people in suicide prevention and how to recognize when someone may be suicidal and what to do in those situations. But one of the biggest accomplishments that I’m super proud of here is that we have trained over 100 faculty and staff in mental health.”

Such resources are as important as ever.

Upward of 44% of college students report symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to a 2021 report by the Mayo Clinic Health System, and suicide is their third leading cause of death.

In Nov. 2022, LaTasha Bradford told the State Board of Community Colleges that addressing mental health is crucial to enrolling and retaining more students. At the time, Bradford was the Board’s student member and president of the North Carolina Comprehensive College Student Government Association (N4CSGA).

Bradford highlighted the following findings from the N4CSGA’s student survey.

  • 80% of students said they had a mental health disorder or challenge at the time of the survey.
  • 60% of respondents said that mental health resources would enhance their college success.
  • 30% of students said they believed they have a mental health disorder that has not been officially diagnosed.

“There’s still a stigma that’s associated with mental health, and students fear they may be stigmatized,” Bradford told the Board. “It’s a question of accessibility and affordability — being able to actually get services to have that diagnosis for mental health. So the even greater question is, ‘What can we do to assist and help?’”

Read more from the report, including best practices for community colleges, on our website.

68 Voices, 68 Hearts: Wayne Community College celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Wayne Community College students, faculty, and members of the community celebrated the month by coming together for the inauguration of the 68 Voces, 68 Corazones — 68 Voices, 68 Hearts — art exhibit, which honors legends told in each of the 68 Mexican indigenous languages, according to this press release.

The Consulate General of Mexico in Raleigh lent WCC the collection of art. Each legend includes images with an interactive display where the legend is told in its original language with Spanish and English translations.

Deputy Consul Miguel Antonio Cuesta Zarco from the Consulate General of Mexico attended the inauguration. …

Margaret Turlington, a philanthropist with the Anonymous Trust, lifted up the leadership of Esteban Guzmán, the director of the small business center at WCC for helping to coordinate the event. Leaders from four community colleges — Wayne, James Sprunt, Sampson, and Lenoir Community College — previously went to Mexico together, and Guzmán was on that trip, Turlington said.

“Almost a year now that we went to Mexico,” Guzmán shared with a group who went on the trip together. “To celebrate that life changing experience, we brought a little piece of México and its languages to Wayne Community College.”

Turlington notes, “The energy from our trip last October continues to grow.”

You can learn more about 68 Voices, 68 Hearts on this website, and read the full article at

Also check out this press release from the NCCCS on Hispanic-Serving Institutions in North Carolina.

Competition highlights community colleges’ effort to promote apprenticeships

Last week, ApprenticeshipNC helped to highlight the option of apprenticeships with a week-long competition for apprentices of various trades at the North Carolina State Fair.

New EdNC Reporter Laura Browne has the story. Give them a follow on Twitter or reach out and say hello at [email protected].

“It (the competition) helps the apprentices, I think, understand the value and the scope of an apprenticeship,” said Charlie Milling, a regional apprenticeship consultant for the western region of the state.

Milling said N.C. community colleges need to communicate to industries and businesses how integral community colleges can be in workforce development and training the next generation.

The on-the-job training and hands-on learning that apprentices gain adds value to their education, Milling said.

On Oct. 18, ApprenticeshipNC hosted the 38th Annual Electrical Apprentice Contest, featuring apprentices across the state from around a dozen different companies, Milling said.

Apprentices completed a simulated electrical job, which included conduit bending, wiring, and installation followed by a written test. Participants had the opportunity to win cash prizes.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who has a seat on the State Board of Community Colleges, attended a portion of the competition. He said “skilled builders” will remain essential as the state and its economy grow rapidly, and said he wants apprenticeship opportunities at every community college in the state.

“The state needs to heavily focus on those community colleges and ensure that every community college — all of them— have the opportunity to present these kind of opportunities to our young people,” Robinson said.

Check out the full story on our website.

Around NC

A recent EdNC perspective includes a speech was that given by Dr. Patrena Benton Elliott at her inauguration as the President of Halifax Community College. You can read her speech on our website.

In another EdNC perspective, Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Laura Leatherwood writes that “at a time when industry demand for skilled trades workers outpaces supply, Blue Ridge Community College continues to leverage and innovate apprenticeships as a valuable strategy to bring qualified professionals to these technical fields.” You can read the full piece at

The NCCCS has seen a statewide enrollment growth of nearly 5% this fall, Dr. Jeff Cox said in the most recent edition of “Community College Now,” a newsletter from the system which compiles news and highlights from across the state. Email [email protected] to subscribe.

The NC Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation’s (NCCCJTI) editorial board has opened its call for submissions for Volume 3 Issue 1. Submit your manuscripts to [email protected] by Dec. 8. You can also learn more at NCCCJTI’s website.

North Carolina community colleges and the North Carolina General Assembly are expanding a pilot program that provides career pathway opportunities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to a NCCCS release. The new budget included nearly $4 million in recurring funds to create statewide regional support networks that help students with disabilities access training and job opportunities.

Johnston Community College and Johnston County Public Schools, with support from Novo Nordisk and Grifols, are teaming up to offer the BioWork certification curriculum in all of Johnston County’s traditional public high schools. Johnston County high school juniors and seniors will be able to complete the free course in one semester, as part of a pre-apprenticeship, through the Career and College Promise program.

Central Carolina Community College hosted its Manufacturing Day event on Oct. 6 at the E. Eugene Moore Manufacturing & Biotech Solutions Center where 30-plus regional companies showcased the diverse career opportunities in manufacturing. More than 800 people attended the event, per a college release, including over 500 students from schools in four counties.

Durham Technical Community College and UNC-Chapel Hill recently celebrated a new partnership at the grand opening of the Innovate Carolina Junction. Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton announced that the college had opened an office at the Junction’s 137 E. Franklin Street location in Chapel Hill to provide space for its small business and corporate services, along with academic programming.

The first truck driving class at Southeastern Community College recently graduated with a 100% pass rate, according to a release from the college. The partnership between SCC, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and the Town of Fair Bluff brought about the new program that started Aug. 1. 

Other higher education reads

Q&A with Brian Merritt, former president of McDowell Technical Community College

Achieving the Dream (ATD) recently published a Q&A with Dr. Brian Merritt, the former president of McDowell Technical Community College and now NCCCS senior vice-president & chief academic officer.

ATD interviewed Merritt about McDowell’s student success goals and the college’s new strategic vision centered on strengthening the institution and the community. Below is an excerpt from that conversation.

Q: In your view, what is the most significant challenge that rural colleges face today? How are you working to address this challenge at MTCC?

A: Rural colleges face unique challenges: We have smaller and fewer pools of prospective students from which we can recruit and we often face difficulties with qualified talent pools for employees, especially in regards to credentialed faculty. At MTCC, we are the only institution of higher education in our county. Students wishing to transfer travel at least 45 minutes from home, and the college-going culture in our county is much lower when compared to similar non-metro counties in North Carolina.

Over the past few years, we have become much more intentional about our marketing and recruiting efforts and community-wide messaging to students. We engaged with a local brand and PR firm to conduct market research about career pathways and focused on partnering with agencies to better serve those in our community who need us the most. In McDowell County, our Latinx residents are twice as likely to be unemployed and in poverty, Black residents are three times as likely, and those who identify as biracial are four times as likely.

As a result, we have:

  • Partnered with Centro Unido Latino American (CULA) to help students enroll in career pathways and then bridge into high-demand, high-wage careers
  • Run a new campaign titled “Beyond a Better Job,” sending a consistent message to prospective students that MTCC is a path to creating a better future for their families
  • Experienced significant enrollment growth for three consecutive fall semesters, with a special emphasis on short-term workforce courses that engage our Latinx community

Read the full Q&A on ATD’s website.

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

Hannah McClellan is EducationNC’s senior reporter and covers education news and policy, and faith.