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Some of the big questions and issues for our community college system in 2021

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58!  If you received this email as a forward, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

We preview the big questions and issues for the system… the State Board of Community Colleges met last week and new system president Thomas Stith presented… Mary Shuping, director of governmental affairs, updated the Board on legislative priorities… Colleges are playing a role in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out… GEER funding and short-term workforce development courses are in the news…

As Thomas Stith officially assumed his role as president of the community college system last week, I rolled out a deep dive looking at the significant questions, issues, challenges, and opportunities the system will face under his leadership.

You can organize the year ahead around the following big themes:

  • Funding, funding, funding — budget stabilization and faculty pay
  • System office staffing and providing stability to the staff
  • Maintain unity among the State Board, colleges
  • Building on existing partnerships with other systems and key education stakeholders
  • Supporting the 58 colleges through another COVID-19 semester

Give the preview for the year ahead a read — and then let me know what you think by replying directly to this email, texting COLLEGE to 73224, or feel free to fill out the poll at the bottom.

Stith also had his first presentation before the State Board of Community Colleges meeting on Friday. My colleague Michael Taffe has the story:

[Stith] discussed his intention to be present in the General Assembly to advocate for the state’s community colleges.

“Not only were we there before the session began, we’re going to be there throughout,” Stith said. “We have faculty and staff salaries, stabilization of budget. We have very aggressive innovation in IT, and it is going to be very important for the system office to be present, to be engaged, and to ensure that our legislative goal as we work with the presidents and trustees is accomplished in this session.”

Stith also discussed expanding the system’s partnerships, including using unallocated ConnectNC bond funding to partner with contractors and business owners of color to advance economic opportunity.

“There’s about $20 to $25 million of ConnectNC bond funding that has not been allocated,” Stith said, “and there may be an opportunity for the community college system to partner with minority businesses and contractors in work that’s planned for our local community colleges, which is a way for bringing economic opportunity into those communities that will see that type of bond funding, in either renovations or new buildings.”

We are monitoring the ongoing discussion of the State Board programs committee regarding Central Piedmont Community College’s application for a medical sonography program. In their meeting last week, the programs committee decided to table the application until the next Board meeting on February 18. You may watch the programming committee meeting from last week via YouTube by clicking here. We will be covering the role of the State Board in program applications and service areas moving forward.

As we prepare for the 2021 legislative session, my colleagues have two previews that you should check out, including a look at early childhood legislative priorities and what to expect on the science of reading.

As always, thank you for reading. Tomorrow my colleague Molly Osborne and I head to Vance-Granville Community College. Stay tuned for our coverage of the visit.

See you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth –

EdNC reads

The community college system has a new leader. Here are some of the significant questions and issues he faces in 2021.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to engage many community college administrators, faculty, and staff in a conversation about the future of the community college system. I’ve also been fortunate to catch up with philanthropists, legislators, and other key stakeholders to better understand the lay of the land in the upcoming legislative session — and where community colleges will fall.

As I mentioned above, a number of big themes emerged throughout the conversations in recent months.

Some of the key questions from the piece include:

  • Will the system secure budget stabilization for the colleges due to ongoing enrollment declines?
  • Will this be the session that faculty pay raises are both secured — and then signed into law?
  • Who do you hire to fill Jennifer Haygood’s role as chief of staff and executive vice president? Overwhelmingly, the people I spoke with in recent weeks hope that he identifies someone in the system who has community college experience. The same question extends to an array of system-level roles.
  • Thomas Stith’s travel schedule could prove challenging due to COVID-19 and the hectic nature of the legislative session, but how quickly can he establish relationships across the 58 colleges?
  • How will he and the system office support the equity task force work of presidents Don Tomas and Thomas Walker? How will the system continue to push forward on racial equity work beyond the task force itself?

I would be curious to know what you think of those questions — and I would also like to know what other questions and issues you believe are important.

Give the piece a read and then let us know what you think!

Click here for more

The State Board of Community Colleges hears more about legislative priorities, remote learning

Our write-up of last week’s State Board of Community Colleges meeting includes a spotlight on Thomas Stith’s first president’s report. Stith spoke on many topics, including the vacancies among senior leadership positions at the system office. He noted, “I’ll be moving forward in the near term to bring new members on board to add to the very strong team that we already have.”

Mary Shuping, director of government relations for system, also presented on the system’s legislative priorities.

“I think the first thing that the legislature is really looking at is trying to go through and sort through the COVID needs that are still outstanding,” Shuping said.

One of those needs, she said, is the system’s funding request to help stabilize colleges’ budgets due to enrollment declines from COVID. Because the majority of state funding for community colleges depends on enrollment, fewer students means less funding. The system is asking for non-recurring funding to keep community college budgets at at least 98.5% of 2020-21 funding levels. System leaders refer to this legislative ask as “budget stabilization.”

Shuping went on to discuss the potential for faculty pay increases. Click below for more information on what she had to say!

Click here for more

Around NC

The Institute for Emerging Issues will host a ReCONNECT for the Future forum from February 15-18 virtually. You may register by clicking here. They promise the following: “People in our state are looking for ways to connect with one another across lines of difference. We’ve discovered some ideas with the potential to move to action across the state… The easiest pathways to move forward are often local—steps we can take in our own backyards. We’ve identified some areas that will give community groups a greater capacity to make local change happen.”

We look forward to joining them.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and UNC Wilmington partnered together to celebrate their “Pathway to Excellence” program that guarantees admission for students who wish to transfer. As noted in this piece, the number of RCCC students who transferred to UNC-W doubled since the program launched. According to the piece, “The partnership guarantees admission to UNC Wilmington for Rowan-Cabarrus Associate in Arts or Associate in Science students with at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA in transferable, college-level coursework.”

Bladen Community College announced a new partnership with Western Governor’s University. The details include: “WGU North Carolina, an affiliate of Western Governors University, will give credit for Bladen Community College students’ coursework here; provide a 5 percent discount on tuition to graduates, staff and faculty; and allow graduates, staff and faculty to apply for specially designated Community College Partner Scholarships valued at $2,000.”

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Program provided $15 million in support of tuition for short-term workforce development courses at community colleges across the state. Mayland Community College’s use of GEER funds is featured in the local news as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for students.

Rowan-Cabarrus CC also showcased their installation of new public art benches funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Guilford Tech’s truck driver training curriculum is in the news as the industry continues to have a need for new drivers.

Y’all know I love BBQ. Sweet Lew’s BBQ in Charlotte has hired a Central Piedmont Community College student as a BBQ apprentice. I am officially jealous.

Community colleges hosting vaccination sites are in the news, including a spotlight on Rockingham Community College.

Pitt Community College is offering late start classes this spring — and I am sure others are as well. I would love to hear from you all how late start classes, shorter term courses, etc. went in the fall as a tool to provide flexibility and bolster enrollment.

Forsyth Tech recently announced they are waiving fees for many high school students who take classes through the Career and College Promise program.

Faculty voices needed

And as a reminder from our friends at the Belk Center:

The Belk Center, Student Success Center, and Achieving the Dream (ATD) are collaborating to create structures that will support scalable and sustainable professional learning activities for full-time and adjunct North Carolina community college faculty in service of student success across the state. The voices and experiences of faculty are essential to this collaboration. All North Carolina community college faculty are invited to complete the Building Teaching and Learning Capacity in North Carolina Survey.

Through December 2020, approximately 2,000 faculty, which is less than 10% of the full-time and adjunct faculty in the system, completed the survey. We need your voice. Please help us by completing the survey by January 22nd. The survey findings will inform professional development decisions to support building capacity for teaching and learning, and student success in North Carolina.

We look forward to supporting colleges in their efforts to improve student success, and thank you for joining the 2,000 faculty who have already completed the survey.

Other higher education reads

WEBINAR | The road ahead for community colleges

From Strada Education Network: “How is the pandemic affecting community colleges and the students they serve? Will declining enrollment trends continue? Why are enrollments down while students give community colleges high marks? Will students delay graduation? How prepared do they feel to transition from education to career? This week Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights focuses on student perspectives about community college and how colleges can prepare students and themselves for what’s next.”

The webinar is January 27 at 2 pm ET.

The 2021 Regional Workforce Development Rankings

According to Site Selection Magazine, North Carolina ranks #1 in regional workforce development. Click here to find out the methodology used to assign the ranking. I am curious to hear your take!

CC Daily: Students cover most noncredit workforce education costs

From CC Daily: “Students paying out of pocket cover a large chunk (42%) of the cost of noncredit workforce development programs offered at community colleges, according to preliminary findings from an ongoing survey by Opportunity America and Lumina Foundation.”

This data is part of a larger conversation and debate around the possibility of Pell Grant funding being made available for high quality, short-term workforce programs. We would love to hear your thoughts — especially if your college has a story to share around GEER funds being used this year.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.