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Next round of CARES Act funding for community colleges announced

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The Department of Education released the second round of CARES Act funding and new guidance last week … The story of MerleFest is the story of a community college instructor … A new series looks at the role of community college presidents and what skills they need to be successful in today’s world …

Hi everyone,

Molly, EdNC’s policy director, here. I’m taking over for Nation this week as he catches up after a few days away. A lot happened in the education world last week. 

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced K-12 school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the school year. On Thursday, the State Board of Education passed new guidance on grading policies. 

And last Tuesday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the second round of funding for higher education institutions through the CARES Act. The Department of Education also released two FAQ documents, one for the emergency student financial aid grants funding and one for the institutional costs funding. Sara Goldrick-Rab of The Hope Center also released guidance for colleges on distributing emergency student grant aid.

After publishing my article on the CARES Act funding on Wednesday night, I received several emails from community college students – in North Carolina and across the country. Students want to know when the money will be available, what the application process will look like, and why all online students were excluded. We will continue to report on these issues. 

This week, we launched a spotlight on community college leadership. The first two articles look at the changing role of the presidency, including why presidents are staying in their roles for less time now, and what skills presidents need today. Check back throughout the week as we publish profiles of community college leaders here

And make sure to check out our article on the story of MerleFest and a Wilkes Community College instructor named “B” Townes. In a non-COVID-19 world, MerleFest would’ve taken place this past weekend. Instead, it will resume next year.

Thanks for reading,


Director of Policy,

The story of a horticulture instructor at a community college is the story of MerleFest

MerleFest was supposed to happen this past weekend. Instead, thanks to COVID-19, it was canceled this year and will pick up again next April. The festival is produced by the Wilkes Community College Foundation, and the net revenue benefits Wilkes Community College and its students. 

Mebane Rash wrote a profile of “B” Townes, a horticulture teacher who needed money for gardens at the college. He ended up hosting the first MerleFest with Doc Watson in 1998. Read the piece and watch a rough cut of Robert Kinlaw’s video on MerleFest here. 

Spotlight: The changing role of the community college president

Since 2015, 39 of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina have experienced presidential turnover, and four more will join those ranks this year when they conclude their presidential searches. What is behind all the turnover? 

In this piece, I take a look at why presidential turnover has increased in North Carolina and across the country. The short answer: It’s complicated. The wave in baby boomers retiring certainly has something to do with it, but as interviews with several presidents and a survey of North Carolina presidents show, the job has become much more challenging in recent years.

Spotlight: What skills do presidents need today?

“To be a successful president today, you cannot be one dimensional,” David Shockley, president of Surry Community College, told me in an interview. 

To succeed in today’s higher education landscape, presidents need a new set of skills. This piece looks at what those skills are, and what professional development exists to help presidents gain those skills. 

North Carolina district responses to COVID-19: A new database from EdNC and Public Impact

How are North Carolina’s K-12 school districts responding to COVID-19 school closures? EdNC and Public Impact teamed up to create a database to track how the state’s public school districts have shifted instruction, student support, and organizational operations in response to COVID-19 school closures. This is very much a work in progress, but we hope you find it helpful. 

We are working on a corresponding community college database to track how the 58 community colleges are responding to COVID-19. What do you think should be in that database? What do you want to know? Share your feedback by emailing me at

Video | One community college educator shares her passion for teaching and research 

“I never really even had a job that wasn’t education-related,” said Ashley Hagler, a biology instructor and director of undergraduate research at Gaston College. This is the latest article in our community college faculty profiles series. Find them all here.

What will it take to open schools in North Carolina this fall?

After the governor’s announcement Friday that schools will remain closed this year, EdNC’s CEO Mebane Rash talks about what she’s hearing and learning about what the next school year will look like. It’s well worth your time.

Perspective | Supporting community college presidential leadership

Audrey, Jemilia, and Kim from the Belk Center write: “North Carolina’s 58 community colleges represent the one resource that serves all segments of the population as an ever-expanding gateway to prosperity and as a critical talent pipeline for employers in search of workers with needed job skills.” Read on to hear how the Belk Center is supporting presidential leadership during this challenging time.

Perspective | Leadership in a brave new normal: Forsyth Tech takes up the challenge

President Janet Spriggs writes, “In January, when I began my second year as president of Forsyth Technical Community College, I never imagined how the coming months would unfold.” We didn’t either, Janet. Read this piece on how Spriggs and her team approached the COVID-19 challenge.

Perspective | On the front lines with James Sprunt nursing alum Carol Hinson

Carol Hinson, a graduate of James Sprunt’s nursing program, is now on the front lines fighting COVID-19 at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. From the article: “‘James Sprunt prepared me for any kind of nursing that I wanted to do,’ said Carol. ‘The nursing program was great, the instructors prepared me for this moment in time. In the 27 years since I’ve been working, the basics of nursing have stayed the same.’”

Across NC

Congratulations to our friend Audrey Jaeger, executive director of the Belk Center, for receiving NC State University’s 2020 Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award! Jaeger is one of six NC State faculty to win the award. Read more about it here, and look out for a podcast with Audrey at the end of the week. 

Wake Tech held a curbside pinning ceremony for their graduating nursing students last week. “This may be the most special pinning ceremony we’ve had,” Wake Tech President Scott Ralls said. Read and watch a video of it here.

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Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and Chief Operating Officer for EducationNC.