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What will 2024 hold for community colleges?

A note from us

Hello! Hannah here. Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. If you missed it, last week’s edition looked at how North Carolina’s attainment rate compares to states across the country.

The N.C. Community College System co-hosted a dual enrollment conference last week… Community college presidents met with K-12 superintendents to discuss collaboration… The early childhood education program at Robeson Community College was recently selected to participate in a national project to better prepare early childhood education professionals… North Carolina’s primary election is today… 

Nation published an article yesterday with a comprehensive preview of what 2024 will hold for our community colleges. He writes:

The state has had a record number of economic development announcements, promising employers that they will find a well-trained workforce. Community colleges remain essential to meet this commitment given their ability to offer apprenticeships, customized training, stackable credentials, and more.

This year will also bring the legislative short session in the spring and elections in the fall, both of which have the potential to significantly impact the community college system.

Against this backdrop, N.C. community colleges are asking for more resources to meet workforce demands, advocating for a new state funding model, looking to increase enrollment in the face of policy changes and a bumpy FAFSA rollout, and implementing governance changes from last year’s budget.

Take a look at Nation’s piece, and let us know what you think.

We have several other EdNC reads for you this week. On Wednesday and Thursday, I attended the N.C. Community College System’s (NCCCS) dual enrollment conference, hosted virtually with several state agencies. EdNC’s recap of the event is live on our website. Nation was in Greensboro last week for the 2024 convening between N.C. K-12 superintendents and community college presidents. His recap includes discussions on collaboration, promising practices, and changing state demographics. Finally, we published a press release from Robeson Community College, announcing that the college’s early childhood education program will participate in a national project with UNC.

Our team will continue monitoring any federal news regarding Pell Grant expansion and FAFSA fixes this week. Nation will be in Asheville this week visiting A-B Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, and Haywood Community College, and Emily will be at Bladen Community College on Thursday.

We’ll see you out on the road,

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

EdNC’s Senior Reporter

EdNC reads

What does 2024 have in store for North Carolina’s community colleges?

Among other things, Nation’s look-ahead piece highlights the proposed Propel NC funding model, enrollment trends, governance, faculty and staff pay, and leadership transitions. The article outlines impacts of the new FAFSA and potential Pell Grant changes as well as state policy changes that may impact enrollment this year and in the future. He also previews how the short session and 2024 elections could impact community colleges.

2024 is an election year with every statewide office up for grabs, as well as the entirety of the state legislature.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson is running for governor in the Republican primary. As a member of the State Board of Community Colleges, Robinson recently endorsed Propel NC at a State Board meeting:

“Moving from tiers-based to labor-market driven, I would suppose that would give us a lot more flexibility, so I think that’s very good,” he said. “Community colleges are going to be essential (to the economy)… so I’m glad to see the work that’s going on.”

State Treasurer Dale Folwell is both one of his opponents in the Republican primary and a fellow member of the State Board. Folwell also supports Propel NC.

“I support President Cox and the Board’s efforts to ‘propel’ the NC Community College system forward,” Folwell shared with EdNC. “I have been concerned for over a decade about the disparate ways that our three major systems are funded. Some are funded on average daily membership, some on population in arrears, and some based on growth that is difficult to measure. At the end of the day, it comes down to having a system that puts the joy of achievement and upward mobility into our citizenry.”

Conference highlights importance of dual enrollment

Hundreds of higher education leaders across the country gathered virtually on Feb. 28-29 for a dual enrollment conference hosted by several North Carolina agencies — the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS), the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Early College Research Center, and the national RAND Corporation.

The conference included more than 30 sessions focused on the benefits of dual enrollment, the need for equity, and strategies to improve and expand programs.

Keynote speaker Dr. Karen Stout, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream, urged conference attendees to “rethink access” to dual enrollment.

“Dual enrollment is the fastest-growing segment of community college enrollment,” she said. “We must stretch the boundaries of our thinking about the design of our dual enrollment programs and about the range of partnerships we might develop with K-12 partners to help more students thrive — who without these programs, would never have found their way to college in the first place.”

Stout raised a few themes for participants to think about over the two-day conference.

  • The importance of CTE pathways to increase equitable access to dual enrollment.
  • Aligning dual enrollment programs with other college offerings in a more strategic manner.
  • Articulating a shared vision among partners and then creating a work plan to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Focusing on equitable expansion. Specifically, Stout recommended creating culturally-focused and community-specific outreach, engaging prospective students earlier, and bringing advising/classes to students.

Community college presidents and K-12 superintendents discuss collaboration, promising practices, and a changing state

Community college presidents and K-12 superintendents from throughout North Carolina gathered last week in Greensboro for their 2024 convening, discussing their interconnected roles in the state’s overall health.

“We have to do better than we’ve ever done before in aligning our work from K-12 to community colleges on to workforce,” said Jeff Cox, president of the NC Community College System, while highlighting North Carolina’s recent strides in economic development.

Echoing that, Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt emphasized the need to bridge education and workforce readiness. “We are going to make sure that all kids are ready to graduate from high school and have a plan after they cross the stage as graduates,” she said.

The participants discussed several promising practices to turn alignment of the systems into workforce readiness for the students.

Read the full recap at

Robeson Community College’s early childhood education program to participate in national project with UNC

EdNC published a press release from Robeson Community College last week:

The Early Childhood Education program at Robeson Community College has been selected to participate in a national project to better prepare early childhood education professionals.

The project, supported by a one million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, will be guided by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (FPG). FPG and RCC colleagues will work together on Supporting Change and Reform in Preservice Teaching in North Carolina (SCRIPT-NC), focusing on helping early childhood professionals with associate degrees to better meet the needs of all young children, including children with diverse cultures, languages, and abilities, and their families.

“We are excited to be able to work collaboratively with the Franklin Porter Graham Child Development Institute to refine our curriculum content and practices,” stated Dr. Phoebe Harris, program director of the education program at Robeson Community College. “These efforts will help us as we continue to work to meet the needs of the young children of southeastern North Carolina.”

Around NC

N.C. Primary Election | North Carolina’s primary takes place today across the state. ICYMI, here is EdNC’s guide to voting, including how to check your voter status and information.

Five years of the Belk Center | The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research celebrated its fifth anniversary last week. “Your commitments to promoting excellence in community college leadership and research and collaborating with our team and across our network make our work possible, and we remain deeply grateful for your partnership and continued service to students, colleges, and communities across North Carolina and around the country,” the center said in a release. Congratulations to the Belk Center, and thank you for the work you do for our community colleges!

Haywood Strong Scholarship | Spectrum News 1 published a feature on Donald Forney, a former mill worker who is embarking on a new career path by taking classes at Haywood Community College. His enrollment is paid for through the Haywood Strong Scholarship, which has supported more than 50 former mill workers.

JCC expands transfer partnership program | Johnston Community College and North Carolina Wesleyan University recently signed an agreement to expand the educational opportunities of students who graduate with an associate degree through JCC’s Wesleyan Works program, a transfer program with N.C. Wesleyan.

PCC invests in its early education program | Through a $30,000 Perkins Grant, Pitt Community College recently turned a standard classroom into a state-of-the-art preschool laboratory training facility. “Our preschool lab classroom represents a significant milestone in Pitt Community College’s commitment to excellence in early childhood education,” said Melissa Rees, chair of PCC’s education and child development department. “It provides a dynamic space for our students to apply theory to practice and prepares them for impactful careers.”

A new scholarship honors deceased faculty member | Rockingham Community College faculty and staff have established a scholarship in memory of Sarah Evans, a beloved co-worker who unexpectedly died on Nov. 14, 2023. The Sarah Slayton Evans Memorial Endowed Scholarship recognizes the impact that she made on the campus community, per a release from the college. It will be awarded annually to students in RCC’s business technologies programs.

CCCC’s upcoming job fair, summer camps | Central Carolina Community College will host a career expo job fair from 2 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center, 1801 Nash St., Sanford, N.C. The job fair is open to the general public, including CCCC students and alumni. The college also recently released information on its 2024 summer youth camps, which include dental health, junior chef baking/cooking, podcasting, and STEM Academy: Junior Forensics camps, among others. To learn more or to register, visit

Community collaborations | Last Month, 11 graduates completed the six-week BRIDGE program, a collaboration between the Hayti Reborn-Justice Movement and Durham Technical Community College that started in 2023. The program’s full name — Building, Reinventing, Improving, Developing Great Employees and Entrepreneurs — pays homage to Durham’s historic Hayti community, per a college release. Hayti identifies justice-involved people, and Durham Tech then goes on-site at Hayti to do an orientation so people can make an informed choice about whether to enroll in BRIDGE.

UNC holds in-state tuition freeze | In-state undergraduate tuition will remain flat for the eighth year at North Carolina’s 16 public universities, the UNC System Board of Governors voted last week. Due to significant federal delays in FAFSA processing, UNC System President Peter Hans also advised UNC System campus leaders to consider a one-time extension of enrollment deposit deadlines.

N.C. A&T expands health programs | The Board of Governors also gave unanimous approval last week to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University. The university’s college of health and human sciences is now N.C. A&T’s largest college, according to a college release, “and growing rapidly.”

Fundraising for students | Pamlico Community College recently hosted its 12th Annual Great Oyster Revival & Chili Cookoff, where “roughly 200 people enjoyed 22 bushels of oysters, devoured eight crockpots of delicious homemade chili, and most importantly, raised funds for student scholarships.”

Guilford Tech expands workforce program | Guilford Technical Community College was recently awarded $310,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation to support its workforce continuing education construction and trade programs.

An update from Saint Augustine’s University | Saint Augustine’s University (SAU) lost its accreditation appeal last week with the the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Board of Trustees (SACSCOC). A representative for SACSCOS said SAU had 10 days to formally indicate their intention to enter into legal arbitration over the ruling. In the meantime, the school still technically retains its status as accredited but on probation. You can read a statement from SAU President Dr. Marcus H. Burgess regarding the decision here.

Other higher education reads

Small Towns, Big Opportunities: Many Workers in Rural Areas Have Good Jobs, but These Areas Need Greater Investment in Education, Training, and Career Counseling

A new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) offers insight into rural workforce trends.

Rural America has long been perceived as “left behind” by policies that leave it struggling while benefiting bustling urban cities and suburbs. That narrative holds some truth: rural America has a declining population, along with lower educational attainment and lower workforce participation than urban America. But while rural America certainly faces challenges, it also has its own strengths and assets.

“Small Towns, Big Opportunities: Many Workers in Rural Areas Have Good Jobs, but These Areas Need Greater Investment in Education, Training, and Career Counseling” counters some of the negative stereotypes and finds that working adults in rural America are almost as likely (50 percent) as working adults in urban America (54 percent) to have a good job.

Read the full report on the center’s website.

Economic inequalities among college graduates are linked to college major choice

A new Brookings report details several interesting findings regarding the relationship between college major choice and economic inequalities following graduation. Take a look at some of the main findings:

  • Pell recipients are concentrated in majors that lead to lower earnings after graduation for both Pell grant and non-Pell grant recipients.

  • Even as college still pays off, unequal earnings later is strongly associated with major choice and prior research shows that disadvantaged groups face barriers in getting into the highest-paying majors.

  • Universities ought to do more to make lucrative majors accessible to all.

Read the full report on Brookings’ website.

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

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