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“What is the value of education and how can we get students into a living wage faster?”

A note from us

Nation here with the latest edition of Awake58. We examined Propel NC last week.

Inside Higher Ed published an in-depth look at Propel NC… WorkShift places a spotlight on Bloomberg investments into both Charlotte and Durham to generate health care workforce… STEM East recently held their Vision 2024 event… A recap from Robeson Community College’s FAFSA Day…

Laura Browne traveled to both STEM East’s Vision 2024 event and FAFSA Day at Robeson Community College in recent weeks. Both of Laura’s visits are documented in articles we published last week. Here is an excerpt from a presentation by economist Laura Ullrich at STEM East that should be top of mind for all college leaders:

According to Carolina Demography, birth rates in North Carolina increased after a decline in 2020, but the total fertility rate, or the average number of children a person would have throughout their life, is at 1.71 as of 2021, lower than the rate of 2.1 required to maintain the population without folks moving into the state from elsewhere. … Ullrich said in North Carolina, metro areas like Raleigh and Charlotte are driving growth in labor and business for the state. But that isn’t the case for all North Carolina counties, she said, especially in rural areas that may be facing declines in population and employment opportunities.

We live in a period of disruption and change across industries — and higher education is not alone. The N.C. Community College System’s (NCCCS) proposed new funding formula, Propel NC, seeks to shift funding for the community college system to fit a changing world, according to a recent article from Inside Higher Ed:

Tom Looney, chair of the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges, said it’s not a coincidence that the proposed plan, which would incentivize colleges to grow nondegree offerings, comes at a time when students and their families are increasingly questioning whether degrees are worth the time and cost.

Students and parents are thinking about “what is the value of education and how can we get students into a living wage faster?” he said. “Students today are looking for the straightest path to employment because … they don’t want a lot of debt. Our students oftentimes have a full-time job, or students of mine have had two jobs.”

Thank you for reading Awake58 again this week! We appreciate your ongoing support.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Chief of Growth –

EdNC reads

Vision 2024 event highlights STEM and educators as keys for economic development

STEM East Industry In Schools Initiative is a partnership between schools, community colleges, and industry across 29 counties in the eastern part of the state. They recently held their Vision 2024 event. Here is an excerpt from Laura’s coverage of the event:

The day featured panels and speakers, including keynote speaker Laura Ullrich, senior regional economist with The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, who provided an economic update for those present while highlighting what a critical role education plays in maintaining a healthy economy.

Ullrich highlighted what she called the “education to work pipeline,” which demonstrates how more education tends to lead to employment and better income.

This pipeline can feature several “leaks” at the lower end of the education continuum, she said, leading to unemployment.

“The problem is that this pipeline is leaky, people are leaking out. So we know through data that people without a high school degree, less than 50% of them are in the labor force,” Ullrich said. “Less than 50%. So think about that. When we have kids in our communities that don’t complete high school, that once they leave, there is a less than 50% chance that that person ends up in the labor force. That’s a problem.”

FAFSA Day provides support as students navigate new form

Laura recently attended FAFSA Day event at Robeson Community College. Here’s a look at our event recap:

The update to the FAFSA comes after the FAFSA Simplification Act passed to streamline the often lengthy and daunting process. The form, which usually becomes available in October, was delayed until Dec. 31 this year.

At the FAFSA Day, college staff and volunteers provide support and answer questions as students complete the form. At RCC, a Spanish interpreter was present to provide translation assistance.

Roberto Castro, a student at RCC, attended the FAFSA Day event to get his questions answered. Castro said he liked the updated application better than the former FAFSA, calling it more user-friendly.

“Don’t stress it as much,” Castro said he would tell other students filling out the new FAFSA. “Go ahead for it and try it out. And it’ll be easier than you thought it would be.”

Around NC

SAVE THE DATE | “Join hundreds of instructors and staff from 58 colleges across the state for this three-day event celebrating over 60 years of providing high-quality education and highlighting the importance of social and economic mobility for all students.” Save the date for the NCCCS Conference on Oct. 13-15. You can register early.

GRANT OPPORTUNITY | The Camber Foundation’s grant cycle is now open.

NCCCS President Dr. Jeff Cox will be one of the primary speakers at the upcoming North Carolina Rural Center Summit on March 20-21. You can find details on the Rural Center’s website.

FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY | “Journalists and the media play a critical role in shaping public understanding of the role of higher education in shaping the next generation of citizens. However, the resources needed to produce high-quality reporting on pressing education issues have been declining for years. Higher Ed Media Fellows are journalists interested in diving deeper into underreported issues in higher education.” Details can be found on the Institute for Citizens & Scholars’ website.

Blue Ridge Community College recently outlined the five different avenues for tuition free dual-enrollment opportunities for high schoolers in their service area.

Cape Fear Community College recently received a significant investment from the New Hanover Community Endowment related to health care workforce. The college is also hosting an upcoming health care workforce fair on Feb. 19. Finally, Cape Fear also recently shared a press release praising the 16-0 start to the season for their women’s basketball team.

Forsyth Technical Community College is hosting an array of Black History Month events in February. You can view the full calendar on their website.

Both Guilford Technical Community College and Randolph Community College were recently featured by local media for their work to add and adapt offerings in response to major economic development.

Wayne Community College hosted legislators to celebrate the $17 million they received from the General Assembly in the budget: “Senator Newton said that WCC President Patty Pfeiffer’s leadership helped the legislators explain to others why this was a critical investment, and he thanked her for the ‘cogent information and clear-eyed vision’ of where the College is going and what it needs.”

Other higher education reads

The Job: Healthcare High Schools

WorkShift takes a look at Bloomberg Philanthropies large scale investment to bolster the health care workforce pipeline across the country. Here is how they describe the new collaborative with Durham Technical Community College:

North Carolina is one of five states facing the nation’s worst shortages of nurses—with 17K+ projected nursing vacancies by 2033. The region around Durham is expected to be one of the hardest hit, Duke Health says, due to the area’s large number of health systems, hospitals, and healthcare organizations.

An analysis from Duke Health found roughly 8K annual openings in the region for in-demand positions that typically require an advanced certificate or associate degree. The biggest gap is for registered nurses, followed by nursing care assistants, imaging techs, medical assistants, and other roles.

The new school in Durham will be designed to change minds about dual enrollment, says Oluwunmi (Olu) Ariyo, Durham Tech’s director of college recruitment and high school partnerships. The goal is to “allow first-generation and at-risk students to move directly into full-time positions or apprenticeships,” she says, “or part-time employment in combination with further education under an equity lens.”

Students will graduate with a high school diploma as well as an associate degree or workforce credential. Besides integrating health sciences content across the curriculum, the school will offer career exploration activities, many hosted by Duke Health, as well as apprenticeships, internships, and clinical rotations for some career roles.

The school will enroll students from grades nine to 12—and one year beyond 12th grade—with a goal of 100 students per grade level. Students will receive a wide range of support services as they earn credentials, including near-peer mentoring and interview prep, to help them pick the right path as they prepare for the workforce.

NC Health News also has a spotlight on the news in Durham, plus a preview of an upcoming announcement related to the Bloomberg investment in Charlotte in collaboration with Atrium.

North Carolina Community Colleges Push for Workforce-Focused Funding Model

Inside Higher Ed just published their own article taking a look at the Propel NC funding model — including the fact that it would group credit and noncredit courses together.

A unique facet of the model is that it would group credit and noncredit courses in the same fields into the same sectors. For example, a nursing course would bring in the same amount of funding whether it’s part of a degree program or a noncredit certificate program. Currently, noncredit courses can receive less funding than credit courses, even if the professors and course content are the same.

(Richmond Community College President Dale) McInnis said creating “parity” between credit and noncredit programs will encourage the growth of noncredit workforce training programs that lead to well-paying, high-demand jobs in the state. Courses that don’t fall into workforce training categories, such as general education courses, would receive the same amount of state funding provided under the old model to make sure colleges offering these courses don’t lose money under the new structure.

“We’re going to see colleges now fully equipped and armed with the ability to match up the right class, the right credential for what their region and their communities are needing in the workforce,” he said.

Thank you to Inside Higher Ed for also citing Hannah’s great reporting to date. We appreciate the shout out.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.