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Perspective | Community college governance needs strong local responsiveness

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter sent to legislative leadership on May 4, 2023, on behalf of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees. The language of Senate Bill 692 is now included in the Senate’s budget proposal, which was released after this letter was written.

This letter is written on behalf of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees regarding Senate Bill 692 (Community College Governance), which passed the Senate earlier this week. Our board is specifically concerned with the proposed changes to the makeup of local boards of trustees contained in this legislation and the impact those would have on our shared interest in strengthening workforce development in North Carolina.  

We believe that the community college is a vital component of the life of the community, and it is important that the governance structure should allow for the local community to be directly involved in identifying members of the community to conduct its governance. Therefore, we recommend removing provisions regarding local boards of trustees, specifically Section V.  

We urge you to adopt a shared governance model that maintains local appointments for boards of education and continues to have a majority of local boards’ appointments come from local appointing bodies. Ensuring strong connections to local officials and local needs is critical to strong college governance and responsiveness. Further, our experience has shown that strong local collaborations are critical to successful workforce development efforts.  

To that end, we are pleased to share that Durham Tech is seeing increased collaboration and greater success with workforce development with our local colleges. In the past year, Durham Tech launched a partnership with Wake Tech called RTP Bio to better serve employers and students in the biotech industry. Our two colleges are sharing resources to connect students with employers, support faculty, develop apprenticeships, and create transfer agreements so our students can enroll in each other’s programs.  

RTP Bio is just one example. Consider Durham Tech’s work with Alamance Community College to offer courses in local high schools in programs we don’t offer like horticulture. Or the ten-college collaboration we participate in led by Central Carolina Community College to provide the customized training needed for new expansions by VinFast and Wolfspeed.

As you and your colleagues in the House work with the Senate to craft a final budget and ensure a strong system of workforce development, we respectfully request your consideration of the two priorities put forth by the state’s 58 community colleges and State Board of Community Colleges: moving salaries to the average of our four surrounding states and bringing our per student funding from 50% of our university peers to 66%. 

These investments will be critical to allowing us to continue and expand priority workforce development efforts and to build on the kind of collaborative efforts in place with colleges in our region. Specifically, for Durham Tech, they will provide needed resources to hire and retain in demand faculty and staff in a competitive labor market; expand and launch needed workforce training programs in advanced manufacturing, health care, the life sciences, and skilled trades; ensure updated equipment in our classrooms and labs; and provide critical academic and personal supports for students to ensure program completion.  

These priorities ensure we are responsive to a local, competitive labor market and meet the workforce demands that being the number one state in the nation to do business brings. On the first priority, we appreciate the 7.5% raise for our faculty and staff and funding for targeted recruitment and retention in the House budget. These are important steps to providing more competitive salaries. On the second, we recommend full funding of the request to bring per student funding in North Carolina to the averages of the four surrounding states — South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee — with whom we are in constant competition for companies, jobs, and talent. 

The Durham Tech board appreciates your consideration of these priorities in building a robust  system of workforce development to support employers, create jobs, and improve economic  opportunity for our citizens.