Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Hackers are coming after community colleges

Welcome to Awake58!  If you missed the previous newsletter that provided an update on myFutureNC and our progress towards our statewide attainment goal, click here. If you were forwarded this newsletter, please click here to subscribe.

The State Board of Community Colleges meets this week… the NCCCS presidential search committee meets today… We look at the rise of ransomware attacks on various educational institutions… Our Solution Seekers series highlights the work of College Lift in Forsyth County and the Northeast NC Career Pathways partnership… Community colleges will receive funding from the COVID-19 relief package…

Colleges, and other educational institutions, are increasingly subject to cyber attacks. These attacks often take the form of hackers gaining access to sensitive, personal data. After they grab the data, they then attempt to hold the data “ransom” in exchange for money. My colleague Analisa Sorrells takes a look at the rise of ransomware attacks, including one recently that shut down Haywood County Schools for a week.

Analisa caught up with the team at Forsyth Tech to understand their own preparations:

“Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Tech, said she’s not sure people take ransomware attacks seriously until it happens to them. The attack on Richmond Community College last year served as a wake up call for many community college presidents.

“Since then, Spriggs said the community college system has been focused on two things: 1) how to block cyber attacks and 2) what to do if an attack does occur.

“One key thing Spriggs said she learned from the Richmond Community College attack is that the rebuilding process after an attack is not as simple as using a backup file.”

You don’t want to miss this piece.

Spriggs referenced the past attack on Richmond Community College where online services went down, payroll was delayed, and course registration was threatened. Are you concerned about your college’s security? Have you all experienced any attacks? We’d love to hear from you. Just reply directly to this email.

We have a treat for you! The Institute for Emerging Issues is hosting their next ReCONNECT forum virtually on September 24th from 9 a.m. to noon. The event is titled: Impact on Higher Education and the Future of Work. IEI will discuss the 2030 statewide attainment goal, look at higher education during the time of COVID-19, and other topics. 

We are giving away 18 free registrations on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are interested in potentially snagging one of the registrations, email my colleague Analisa Sorrells at

See you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth,

College Lift: A nonprofit and community college join forces to improve social mobility in their backyard

We have a new series rolling out lifting up programs across the state that are attempting to move the needle on attainment in their region. The first piece in this series focuses on College Lift — an initiative that grew out of the nonprofit Piedmont Renewal Network. The Piedmont Renewal Network was founded by a local student named Logan Philon who was concerned by data from a 2015 report that showed Forsyth County was one of the hardest places to escape childhood poverty in the country.

College Lift is an intense college preparatory program modeled after a successful project called the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) at the University of Southern California. When adapting this model to Winston-Salem, Philon and his team started in 2017 with the Weekend Academy (Saturday school), then added parental support. Afterwards they added after-school tutoring, psychological and emotional services, and ultimately summer programming. 

Philon got to know Forsyth Tech president Janet Spriggs after Forsyth Tech signed a partnership agreement with College Lift to provide scholarships to students in the program. At the same time, Philon realized he was spending most of his energy on the financial and operational side of running the nonprofit, and that a better opportunity might exist.

“I will admit, before I did, [Janet] really caught the vision of, you know, this is something that not only could fit with the community college model, but should fit with the community college model,” Philon said.

Spriggs announced in July that College Lift would join Forsyth Tech’s educational partnerships division.

“I just fell in love with the whole premise of the program,” Spriggs said in a recent interview. “It’s one of those things where you listen to how it came about, you hear the stories of the partner program … that this was modeled after, and you think, ‘Why did it take so long to do something like this?’… It just makes sense on so many levels.”

For more details on College Lift, click here.

Northeast NC Career Pathways: A regional partnership connecting students to careers

This Solution Seekers piece examines a regional collaborative that is designed to promote and provide pathways to careers. The piece opens with Brandi Bragg, the facilitator of Northeast NC Career Pathways, sharing her own story of spending time and resources to land in a career that she quickly realized she did not enjoy. Bragg now works as part of the collaborative to make sure other folks do not have the same experience.

My colleagues describe the program as follows:

NENC Career Pathways is a partnership that spans 20 counties and includes representatives from 27 local education agencies, nine community colleges, three universities, more than 100 employers, three workforce boards, 10 NCWorks Career Centers, and several community agencies.

The goal is to identify and connect people to the various programs and services in the region to put them on the path to a career in a high-demand industry.

“Career pathways is about local and regional programs and services for education and training for youth and adults for highly skilled, sustainable wage jobs in high-demand industries,” Bragg said.

For the full spotlight on the program, including a video that we produced showcasing their work, click here.

Presidential search committee, State Board meet this week

The search for the next president of the NC Community College system continues. On Tuesday, September 15 (read: today) at 2 p.m. the presidential search committee will meet virtually. According to the system office, the meeting is open to the public, but some portion will unfold in closed session.

Here is the information to join the Zoom meeting:

Meeting ID: 994 9633 7102

Passcode: 526454

The State Board of Community Colleges will meet on Thursday, September 17 and Friday, September 18 virtually. We expect a discussion around funding allocations based on the COVID-19 relief bill recently passed by the NCGA and signed by Gov. Cooper, a report around Career Coaches, and more. For details, including how to join, click here. The agenda can be found here — and the package, including additional reports, can be located here.

(Student spotlight) Anxious but determined: Starting nursing school during a pandemic

My colleague Molly Osborne introduces us to Atoya Barrett, a nursing student at Edgecombe Community College, in her latest feature. 

Barrett is enrolled in the Practical Nursing program, a full-time, one-year program to prepare students to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Molly caught up with her to discuss the realities of being part of a semester impacted by COVID-19 at the same time that Barrett is pursuing a career in an industry that is on the frontlines of battling the pandemic.

For more on Barrett’s journey, including how she is grappling with the pace of learning, the nature of hybrid courses, and her own concerns around COVID-19, give the full piece a read by clicking here.

Around NC

The NC General Assembly passed and the governor signed a COVID-19 relief bill recently. The legislation included $5 million to the system office for PPE or COVID-19 testing, $5 million for various campuses for equipment costs for both healthcare workforce and first responder programs, $1 million to Cleveland Community College for PPE, $250,000 to Sampson Community College for COVID-19 impacts, and more. For our full piece on the COVID-19 funding front, click here.

Catawba Valley Community College’s Manufacturing Solutions Center, Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center, the city of Conover, and Gaston County have received funding to power a new partnership for testing, prototyping, and deploying reusable PPE.

myFutureNC and Carolina Demography released county-by-county attainment data recently. Rebecca Tippett from Carolina Demography spotlights this work in a piece we published last week: “The county profiles are intended to facilitate decision-making on local priorities to increase attainment by highlighting county and regional performance and specific opportunities for improvement.”

ICYMI: From the Belk Center at NC State, the next Dallas Herring lecture has been announced: “NC State University’s College of Education Belk Center for Community College Leadership & Research is pleased to host the 2020 Dallas Herring Lecture on Tuesday, November 10th from 1-3 pm. Dr. Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College, will be sharing her thoughts under the title of Insights from the Pandemic: The Reckoning and the Hope at Our Nation’s Community Colleges.” You may RSVP for the event by clicking here.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.