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A homecoming for Halifax's sixth president Dr. Patrena Elliott

A note from us

Hello, Emily here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed last week’s, you can read it by clicking here.

The Senate Education Committee will meet to discuss SB692 this week… The State Board of Community Colleges meets Thursday and Friday… An update on enrollment trends at the NCCCS… How rural colleges are tackling student success… The launch of N.C.’s Avanza cohort… A homecoming for Halifax Community College president…

In this edition, we’re talking about rural colleges, enrollment, attainment, and upcoming meetings impacting community colleges.

Last week, we published a piece on SB692 – a bill that would mean an overhaul to governance within the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS). The Senate Education Committee will meet on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the bill. Also meeting this week is the State Board of Community Colleges. You can find the link to livestream and the agenda here. Stay tuned for our coverage of both meetings.

Enrollment at North Carolina community colleges is trending upward, but it has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Approximately 574,378 students were enrolled in the system over 2021-22. Hannah breaks down headcount, budget FTE, and actual actual FTE in her article from last week. Read the full article about the enrollment trends and what’s on the horizon for community colleges here.

The Rural College Leaders Program, launched by the Belk Center, convened last month to continue work toward advancing student success at North Carolina’s rural community colleges. To date, 40 of the 58 N.C. community colleges serve at least one rural county. Read more about the program here.

Last month was also the first convening for North Carolina’s Avanza cohort. Avanza is a partnership between the Hunt Institute, LatinxEd, and the Belk Center – along with 10 NC community colleges. The group is working to curate experiences that “provide institutional leaders with a space to discuss best practices and barriers to Latino student success.” EdNC’s Derick Lee wrote a piece about the first meeting. Click here to read more.

EdNC and the John M. Belk Endowment traveled to Halifax Community College last week. We met with community partners to discuss the needs of the college’s service area. I also had the privilege to sit down with Dr. Patrena Elliott, Halifax’s sixth president. We discussed what it’s like to take on the role of president in the community she was raised in. You can read that story here.

We’ll be out and about this week. Nation will be at Davidson-Davie Community College today and I’ll be covering the State Board of Community Colleges meeting later this week. 

Stay tuned for more. 

With gratitude – 

Emily Thomas – Policy Analyst 

EdNC reads

Community colleges focus on trying to increase enrollment, which largely determines funding

Enrollment trends for community colleges in North Carolina and nationally are headed in the right direction, but in most cases colleges have not caught up to pre-pandemic levels – much less pre-Great Recession numbers.

State funding is largely tied to enrollment, so it is a trend colleges can’t afford not to watch.

Hannah takes a deep dive into enrollment, breaking down the North Carolina Community College System headcount data, budget FTE, and actual FTE.

Here’s a snapshot by the numbers:

  • During 2021-22 approximately 574,378 students were enrolled in the system.
  • From 2020 to 2022, adult learner enrollment increased from 171,759 to 189,004.
  • This year, the NCCCS estimated an overall 1.7% increase for fall 2023 in budget full-time equivalent (FTE).
  • Out of 58 colleges, 38 saw growth in instructional FTE from fall 2021 to fall 2022. Only 11 colleges saw increases in instructional FTE since before the pandemic in fall 2019.

Read more here.

A community college president’s return home and her vision for the future

“Being here is personal.” That’s how Dr. Patrena Elliott describes serving as president of Halifax Community College (HCC).

On Jan. 1, 2023, Elliott became the sixth and first female president of the college, assuming the role after the death of Halifax’s fifth president, Dr. Michael Elam.

Elliott sat down with EdNC to talk about growing up in Severn – a rural town in Northampton county – and what returning home to serve as president has meant for her and the community. You can read more about Elliott’s story and vision for the future here. 

Advancing student success at rural community colleges

In 2019-20, the NCCCS had a $19 billion annual economic impact on the state’s economy – supporting one out of every 19 jobs across the state. The system awarded over 65,000 credentials during the 2021-22 academic year.

Although the state has urbanized over the years, it’s still overwhelmingly rural. Out of 100 counties, 80 are considered rural. That means that nearly 70% of the state’s community colleges serve at least one rural county – 40 of the 58, according to the NCCCS.

Apart from generating economic impact, community colleges extend numerous resources and services to their communities. They train first responders and early child care workers, provide upskilling for the workforce, offer services to small businesses, educate justice-involved individuals and those seeking a high school diploma, and in some cases, they are a county’s largest employer. And that’s the short list.

But being a rural-serving institution is not without challenges.

In January 2022, the Belk Center, in partnership with Achieving the Dream, launched a program to help rural-serving institutions address the challenges they face and capitalize on their opportunities. The Rural College Leaders Program (RCLP) is an immersive learning community with 10 North Carolina community colleges that serve at least one rural county. You can read more about the program here.

North Carolina community colleges work to advance attainment for Latino students

The convening for the inaugural Avanza cohort was held at Forsyth Technical Community College on March 27. The Spanish term “Avanza” means “to advance; to progress; and/or to move forward.” As applied to the cohort, community colleges across North Carolina have committed to strategically focusing on advancing Latino student success.

Educational partners and 10 N.C. community colleges are working together to “provide institutional leaders with a space to discuss best practices and barriers to Latino student success.”

The convening included experts Melody Gonzales and Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart. Gonzales is the executive director of the White House Hispanic Initiative, centered on advancing education equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Latino communities. Dr. Lowery-Hart is president of Amarillo College in Texas.

The 10 N.C. community colleges were selected by either their designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) or as an emerging HSI.

Read Derick’s full write-up here. 

Around NC

Last month, community college leaders gathered in Raleigh to advocate for systemwide legislative priorities. You can read Central Carolina Community Colleges’s press release about the gathering here. 

HB601 was filed last week. The bill is for a study looking at the funding structure of N.C. community colleges.

A graduate of Wake Technical Community College, Khadijah Scarborough, was named the 2023 Dallas Herring Achievement Award recipient.

Check out this inspiring story about one Robeson Community College adult learner, Anniatha McMillan.

Jan Knox was named vice president of college advancement for Guilford Technical Community College. 

Pitt Community College’s Health Sciences Division will hold a career information fair for local high school students and the community on April 19. 

Wayne Community College and Smithfield Foods were honored with a national award for their apprenticeship model. 

On May 1, Cape Fear Community College will host a career day for the community to explore programs within the marine industry.

Wilkes Community College recently honored its 2023 National Technical Honor Society inductees.

Other higher education reads

Community colleges face a crisis. Are former students the answer?

This piece from InsideTrack’s Co-Founder Kai Drekmeier and Fayetteville Technical Community College President Dr. Mark Sorrells offers five strategies for enrollment campaigns to reengage students. From the Community College Daily piece:

Since 2009, the number of working-age adults with post-high school credentials has increased by 16 percentage points to nearly 54%. But there’s still a long way to go: The U.S. is not on pace to meet Lumina’s college attainment goal of 60% by 2025, and stubborn attainment gaps remain among underrepresented groups.

Additionally, the Belk Center released a series of adult learner briefs last month that highlight the work of N.C. Reconnect and how colleges are using funding and making leadership decisions to operationalize the program across their institutions. You can read the briefs here. 

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.