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What have we learned from the N.C. Reconnect adult learner pilot?

A note from Nation

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.

New data is out on persistence rates at the first five N.C. Reconnect pilot colleges…IEI’s 2022 attainment forum is happening this week…Fayetteville State University announced the FTCC Keen Scholarship for eligible FTCC students…

Good morning Awake58 readers,

Molly here, stepping in for Nation this week as he is on the road. Last week, you received an email from us about different ways to engage with Awake58 and EdNC. Thank you so much to those of you who submitted story ideas and questions you want us to cover! If you haven’t already, let us know what stories you think we should be telling by filling out this short two-question survey.

What is giving you hope right now? Check out our first two community college Moments of Hope: the first with Hardin Kennedy, winner of the 2020 Excellence in Teaching award, and the second with Matt Williams, English instructor at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute.

If you know a community college student, staff, faculty, or administrator who you think would make a great feature for our Moment of Hope series, nominate them here!

N.C.’s Reconnect adult learner pilot is bringing on a second cohort of five schools this spring. What can they and other community colleges learn from the first cohort? Emily Thomas looks at what the initial five colleges have learned so far and how the effort is impacting student persistence rates.

When N.C. Reconnect first launched, one goal of the initiative was to re-enroll students who had stopped attending. The first five pilot colleges identified almost 12,000 students who had previously attended, completed at least 50% of a degree or credential, and had been enrolled within the last five years.

Out of those 12,000 students, which included a pool of adult learners, 753 re-enrolled at one of the five colleges for the fall 2021 semester. Of those 753 students, 87% received grades in their courses and 68% either completed a credential or enrolled in spring 2022 classes.

The data revealed differences between persistence rates among adult learners and 18-to-24-year old students. It also compared the persistence rates between full-time and part-time students and looked at how persistence rates differ between students who identify as Black, Hispanic, or American Indian compared to those who identify as white.

You can read more about the persistence rates and how colleges are adapting to support adult learners here.

As always, thank you for reading Awake58. We look forward to seeing you out on the road in the coming months. Remember, let us know your story ideas and coverage you want to see from EdNC. You can reply directly to this email or take the survey.

See you soon –

Molly, EdNC’s news and policy director


EdNC reads

What adult learners are teaching N.C. community colleges

Administrators and leaders from the first five pilot colleges have dialed in to the work surrounding adult learners.

When we first reported on the adult learner initiative in September, leaders said it was becoming increasingly clear that their college’s operating models did not account for the unique needs of adult learners.

So the colleges started making changes.

In this article, you’ll see colleges who extended their hours of operation to match the availability of adult learners. You’ll find colleges that changed years old policies because they were barriers to a student’s success. And administrators discussed the importance of knowing why students are choosing not to enroll.

There is talk of being in the community more and having the conversations about what it takes to serve some of the most vulnerable populations.

“We spend way too much time in our hallowed halls thinking people are going to come to us. We’ve got to go out, we’ve got to meet them where they are. You know – have tablet, will travel.”

Dr. Rachel Desmarais, president of Vance-Granville

We also reveal the early results of the initiative’s effort (753 students re-enrolled across the five colleges) and dive into persistence rates (87% persisted through census date and 68% of students either earned a credential or enrolled in spring 2022 classes).

Read more here about how persistence rates differ between adult learners, students over 25, and traditional students, individuals ranging in age from 18 – 24. You’ll also find comparison of persistence rates between full-time and part-time students, how persistence rates differ between students who identify as Black, Hispanic, or American Indian compared to those who identify as white.

Of the 753 students who were enrolled on day one, those who were Black, Hispanic, or American Indian were 46% less likely to still be enrolled four weeks later than students of other racial/ethnic groups.

While they were more likely to disengage before the four-week mark, those who identified as Black, Hispanic, and American Indian had higher rates of persistence to spring 2022 than white students if they made it past the four-week threshold.

Click here to see the full article.

PNC Foundation announces $2 million partnership with 5 North Carolina HBCUs

The PNC Foundation announced Tuesday that it would provide $2 million in grants to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina. The grants, PNC leaders said at a press conference, will allow these institutions to enhance their entrepreneurship curriculum and offerings, including adding new programs, increasing capacity, and improving technology.

The universities are:

  • Winston-Salem State University
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • N.C. Central University

Read the story to see they are planning to spend the grants.

A holistic strategy for content distribution, audience growth, and engagement

During the pandemic, EdNC has been on a learning journey to figure out how to do our job better — how to reach more people with our news and research. So we looked at all the ways individuals and organizations can distribute content and created a playbook to engage with our audience.

These tactics and tools could also be used by teachers with blogs; by schools, districts, and community colleges; by nonprofits —  anyone or any group wanting to reach a wider audience. 

Click here to learn more about how to grow your audience with EdNC’s audience engagement playbook.

If you’d like us to come talk to you about how the playbook can shape your communications strategy, please reach out.


Around NC

The Institute for Emerging Issues is holding their 2022 virtual forum titled, “Advancing Together: Enhancing NC’s Workforce Through Educational Attainment,” this week. Over the course of three days, attendees will hear from system leaders like Peter Hans, Thomas Stith, Hope Williams, and Catherine Truitt as well as community college presidents and administrators, business leaders, and leaders from statewide nonprofits like myFutureNC. You can see the virtual agenda here.

State Sen. Michael Lee and former state Sen. Howard Lee authored a guest perspective on the Hunt-Lee Commission, a bipartisan, cross-sector commission with the goal to “bring together a diverse group of leaders across policy, education, business, and philanthropy to ask a key question: If we could wave a magic wand to transform education in our state, what would we do?”

Fayetteville State University announced last week the FTCC Keen Scholarship, a scholarship that will provide two years of free tuition to qualified students who earn an associate degree at FTCC. The scholarship will be available to 150 FTCC graduates in 2022-23 and grow to 300 graduates after 2025.  Read the press release here.

BlueRidgeNow has a feature out on Blue Ridge Community College president Laura Leatherwood after she was named President of the Year by the State Board of Community Colleges.

WUNC’s Liz Schlemmer has a feature out on the NC Education Corps that is worth checking out. She reports that the Corps hopes to partner with the UNC System and North Carolina community colleges to recruit students as tutors.

CBS17 takes a look at the cyber attacks that have hit North Carolina’s school districts and community colleges in the past few years, including one of the largest at Guilford Tech. Read more here.

Randolph Community College’s veterinary assistant program is lifted up in this local news story as a solution to overwhelmed veterinarian hospitals.

Catawba Valley Community College recently invested in virtual reality as a new way to teach ESL students. Read more in this local news feature.

Several N.C. community colleges are participating in an event hosted by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center on Feb. 17, 2022. The event is geared towards anyone interested in learning more about the biomanufacturing field and job opportunities in North Carolina. Learn more and register here.

myFutureNC has launched its 2022 FAFSA Challenge in partnership with the College Foundation of North Carolina:

The 2022 FAFSA Challenge encourages schools, students and families to emphasize and prioritize the financial aid application as the first step toward a free or affordable college education. By completing the FAFSA, students become eligible for federal PELL grants, state need-based grants, scholarships, low-cost loans and work-study programs.

“Data tells us that students who complete the FAFSA are much more likely to attend college and graduate,” said Cris Charbonneau, myFutureNC’s director of advocacy and engagement. “By emphasizing the FAFSA and recognizing schools’ efforts, we are not only providing students a pathway to free or affordable college, but we are also positioning our state for future economic success.”


Other higher education reads

How Credentials Can Create Opportunity for More People

Google’s chief marketing officer for the Americas region, Lisa Gevelber, shares why she founded Grow with Google and some lessons she’s learned along the way. Grow with Google offers training in low-cost professional certificates in the tech industry.

Will making the FAFSA more ‘fun’ help get Pell grants into students’ pockets?

The Hechinger Report looks at how states have tackled getting more students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The article focuses on Louisiana, which made filling out the FAFSA a graduation requirement in the 2017-18 school year.

4 tips for parents and caregivers who want to go to college

This piece from NPR is aimed at parents and caregivers who want to go to college, but in doing so, it outlines what colleges should be thinking about when trying to recruit students who are parents or caregivers. The article highlights four things to consider:

  • Access to affordable childcare
  • Overall cost, and timeline of tuition payments
  • Availability of academic advising
  • Flexible class scheduling
Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and director of operations for EducationNC.