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Perspective | Lt. Gov. candidate Deborah Cochran weighs in on community colleges

In 2019, EdNC.org began holding student town halls at community colleges across North Carolina. In January, we expanded access to the town hall experience with a virtual town hall that allowed community college students to share their opinions on the issues that matter most to them. The virtual town hall received more than 5,000 responses from 350+ community college students. Click here to view the results.

North Carolina’s lieutenant governor has a seat on the state board of community colleges. So, we asked candidates for the office to respond to any or all of the issues identifies in the town hall, or any others impacting community colleges that would be a priority for their tenure.

As your next lieutenant governor, I will have a seat on the State Board of Community Colleges. I am the only candidate who has taught at a community college part-time for 18 years. I am in my fifth year as a business teacher in public schools and will have a seat on N.C. State Board of Education. 

I strongly support community colleges and have been a champion since the beginning of my campaign. I worked at a community college at night while working in radio broadcasting and as a city commissioner. I later was elected mayor for two terms in my hometown. 

Not only did I work at a community college, I was a student right out of high school and earned two A.A.S. degrees and continued to take classes after I obtained my bachelor’s degree. In high school and college, I was on the student government and member of Future Business Leaders of America and in other clubs.

Currently, I teach at a Title 1 school where there are opportunities for students to join Crosby Scholars. Many students obtain volunteer hours and I write letters for them for college and scholarship considerations. We also have Latino and Black Achievers clubs where scholarships are available.

Our students can gain work experience in the credit union on campus and apply for those scholarships. I highly encouraged students to join as many clubs as possible and work hard on their GPA and apply for every scholarship available. It is important to be tenacious and never give up. It takes a lot of work, but it is well worth the effort.

I am the only person in my family to graduate high school and college. My father was paralyzed and had seizures. My mother worked in a factory until it closed. My brother dropped out of high school to work in a knitting plant that moved off shore after 25 years.

If a student comes from an economically disadvantaged family, they will qualify for the Pell grant by completing FAFSA and CFNC. The government wants students to be productive and graduate.

As a high school student, I worked nights and weekends and volunteered in the guidance department during the day. The counselor encouraged me to apply for scholarships. I was awarded several of them. There are scholarships out there that students are not aware of or simply do not apply. I have gone through fast food restaurants and asked students if they were going to college and some aren’t even aware of Pell grants.

We now have skills gaps in trade Careers. Community colleges teach these skills. I strongly support apprenticeships, internships, credentials, and certifications so students are prepared to compete in this high tech, global, 21st century economy. I support increased funding to community colleges.

If students dream big and work hard, their dreams will come true. I obtained a bachelor’s in business management from Gardner-Webb University and a teaching license from NC State University in Business and Information Technology.

Deborah Cochran

Deborah Cochran is a former mayor of Mount Airy, North Carolina. She is running for Lt. Governor.