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'When is it our turn?' Will community college employees get pay raises this year?

A note from Nation

Hello, y’all. My name is Nation Hahn, and I have probably met many of you in my travels to community colleges across the state. For many folks reading this email, this could be your first time receiving our Awake58 newsletter. Awake58 is our weekly newsletter sharing the stories of our 58 community colleges across North Carolina. We also share the latest postsecondary news and research from across the country. Below you will find compelling reporting on faculty and staff pay from Emily Thomas and Alli Lindenberg. Keep reading!

Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. We hope you will stay a while. If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

Banking on a pay raise – North Carolina community college employees are asking, ‘When is it our turn?’ And a special update about remedial education and the presidents’ vote to stop systemwide implementation of RISE. 

Good morning, all. Emily Thomas here again, taking over Awake58 this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the full steam ahead into summer weather. I know my plants have.

Multimedia reporter Alli Lindenberg and I spent the last several weeks speaking with community college presidents, faculty, and staff to hear from them why pay raises for community college employees are needed. With the House and Senate likely to release their budgets soon, Alli and I explored:

  • Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget, which includes a 7.5% pay raise over two years.
  • Where North Carolina ranks in pay nationally.
  • What a pay raise would mean for employees, their families, and colleges.

Plus, it’s two for one – an article to read and a podcast for your listening pleasure. Read the article here. Listen to the podcast here.

You can also read an update on RISE, the corequisite remedial education model that community colleges have been trying to implement since 2019. Last October, the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents decided to pause full-scale implementation of RISE until spring 2022. Last month, they voted to stop systemwide implementation.

You can read the full update here.  

If you missed the RISE series that Molly and I worked on earlier this year, you can find it here.

I’d love to know your plans for the fall semester. Send me an email [email protected] and let me know what your community college is doing this fall. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in person over the next few months.

Thanks for reading,

Emily Thomas

Policy Analyst – EdNC.org


EdNC reads

'When is it our turn?' Community colleges push for employee pay raises

The governor has proposed a 7.5% pay increase for community college employees, but the Senate and House have not released their budgets yet. Will community college employees see a pay raise?

It’s been years since North Carolina community college employees have received significant pay raises.

We spoke with college presidents, faculty, and staff about why this pay increase is critical.

Melissa Johnson, an instructor at Isothermal Community College, said making her family’s budget last from month to month has been a challenge.

“As time has evolved, and finances have become a little bit tighter, it’s been a little bit more difficult to justify to my husband the expenses, as far as why we do what we do.”

And she’s not alone.

There are thousands of people like Johnson all across the 58 community colleges.

To make ends meet, some community college employees have to work multiple jobs. Jeff Cox, president of Wilkes Community College, was recently confronted with this reality in a checkout line.

“I was taken aback when I got to the checkout line and it was one of my employees,” Cox said. “It just struck me that she’s not doing that for fun because she’s bored on the weekends. She’s having to pick up that income because she needs it.”

When it comes down to it, it’s about feeling valued, community college leaders said.

“It’s an emotional issue,” said David Shockley, president of Surry Community College. “That emotional recognition that comes along with a raise, an appreciable raise, that says we value what you do.”

At a recent State Board of Community Colleges meeting, Kandi Dietemeyer, president of Central Piedmont Community College, made a plea to lawmakers to remember community college faculty and staff:

“Let us not forget, and let us keep reminding those who will stroke the pen in the General Assembly, that this incredible talent and those thousands of graduates would not be possible, or the hope for our great state, if it were not for the incredible talent and really the dedication, hard work, professionalism, passion, and service of the best faculty and staff in the nation.”

What do you think? We’d love to hear why a community college faculty and staff pay raise is important to you. Respond directly to this email, or email Emily Thomas at [email protected].

Click here for the story

Listen | 'You shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty to serve in one of our community colleges.'

Sometimes written words cannot convey the emotion behind a person’s statements. And there’s plenty of emotion when talking about pay increases for community college employees.

To capture the thoughts and feelings of community college presidents, faculty, and staff, Alli Lindenberg and I wrote and produced a podcast.

You’ll hear from David Shockley about the struggle to retain community college personnel. Jeff Cox, president of Wilkes Community College, talks about why his employees have to work a second job. President of Piedmont Community College, Pamela Senegal, discusses pay inequities for community college faculty compared to K-12 teachers. And Chris English, president of Southeastern Community College, talks about what a pay increase would communicate to community college employees.

We also spoke with Melissa Johnson, an instructor at Isothermal Community College. Johnson talks about her passion for teaching and is candid about the financial struggles she and her family experience because of low pay.

Listen to the podcast here

Community college presidents vote to stop statewide rollout of the RISE model for remedial education

Starting in spring 2019, several North Carolina community colleges piloted a remedial education model called RISE.

RISE uses a corequisite model to get more students into college-level math and English courses as quickly as possible and uses high school GPA as a determinant for placement.

Each semester, more colleges joined the pilot. By fall 2020, all 58 community colleges were supposed to fully implement RISE. However, when the pandemic hit, community college presidents voted to pause systemwide implementation.

But even before the pandemic, RISE received mixed reviews. Some presidents said the data wasn’t clear about the model’s success, while others felt colleges needed to give RISE more time because the data showed success around access. 

In April, the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents voted to stop systemwide implementation of RISE. 

Click here to read about their decision and see what’s next for developmental education. 

Click here for the story

Around NC

New details have been released on the Longleaf Commitment, a program announced last week by Gov. Roy Cooper to provide students from low- and middle-income families with grants to cover tuition and fees at any of the state’s 58 community colleges. To be eligible, students must:

  • Graduate from a North Carolina high school in 2021
  • Be a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes
  • Be a first-time college student (Career & College Promise (CCP) and Early/Middle College High School students are eligible)
  • Enroll in a curriculum program during the 2021-22 academic year
  • Enroll in at least 6 credit hours per semester
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2021-22
  • Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from $0 – $15,000.  (“EFC” is based upon student’s FAFSA determination)
  • Renew FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year and meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements of the college

Use the following resources to learn more about the program and how to apply.


Other higher education reads

Community Colleges Seek to Share Classes Online

From Inside Higher Ed: “A national online course-sharing consortium for community colleges aims to expand access to online learning. It’s also an attempt to relieve budgetary and enrollment pressures after a particularly challenging year.”

A comprehensive game plan to better serve adult learners of color

CC Daily takes a look at a new report from the Community College Research Center on how to better serve adult learners of color. The report, commissioned by Lumina Foundation, focuses on three areas:

  • Aligning short-term credentials with degree programs
  • Improving the design and delivery of advising and other support services
  • Creating culturally sustaining instruction and supports

How Colleges Tell Student-Parents They Don’t Belong

From the Atlantic: “America’s higher-education system is not set up for student-parents to succeed. In many ways, classes and campus life are designed for those who come to college right out of high school and who aren’t parenting or working full-time. Though this kind of student is often portrayed in American culture as typical, 74 percent of undergraduates in this country don’t wholly fit that profile.”

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.