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Perspective | Lt. Gov. candidate Yvonne Lewis Holley 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 candidate for lieutenant governor, I will have a seat on the State Board of Community Colleges. Here are my positions on the issues most affecting community college students.

With a common goal of students going straight into the workforce after completing community college, this is a tremendous benefit to employers, potential employees, and the entire state. As lieutenant governor, I will work with new and existing companies that want to be in North Carolina, to commit being community partners, not just “investors.”

These organizations should provide communities with workforce development, education, and training through the community college system. As a member of the State Board of Community Colleges, I will promote using and enhancing our educational institutions to offer job training programs to produce living wage and above living wage jobs. As a member of the Council of State, I will facilitate and reach out to other departments in state government to seek opportunities to coordinate efforts. For example: the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Public Instruction. 

As lieutenant governor, I will preside over the Senate and move forward any bills that give us Medicaid expansion. This will give most community college students access to free or low-cost health insurance.

As a member of the State Board of Community Colleges, I am open to amending the internet policy for community colleges to reflect spotty internet coverage across North Carolina’s rural areas. It is very important that accessibility is taken into consideration and level the playing field for everyone. 

Also, as a member of the State Board of Community Colleges, I am open to implementing a uniform transfer procedure across North Carolina. If a student desires to take this path to college, barriers should not keep them from making a smooth transition. 

I do not believe community college should be free for North Carolina residents. It would drive up the prices of community colleges, and may cause many of them to shut down. Currently, you only have to be in North Carolina for one year to qualify as an in-state resident, making a loophole for many out-of-state students who have not paid into the North Carolina tax system for more than a year.

However, a person’s ability to pay should be taken into consideration — including financial aid options that will help students without the burden of excessive debt. I do believe there should be more grants and scholarships for community college students. My Affordable Living Initiative (ALI) will incentivize local businesses and companies who want to thrive here, to offer more scholarships and grants to community college students. 

In my opinion, the biggest issue with our current system is that the community colleges compete against each other for the same programs. I would like to implement better coordination of programs across the state so that everyone in North Carolina has access to any training or career program they want. I have spent most of my lifetime and career building coalitions and being a mediator, and I have the experience and know-how to make this happen. 

As your candidate for lieutenant governor, I am running to make living affordable for all North Carolinians. My fellow Democrats and I agree on these things: Medicaid expansion, better public education, access to affordable healthcare (which includes protecting women’s reproductive rights), independent redistricting, protecting voting rights, and tackling climate change.

However, my time in office has taught me that there are pressing issues not being addressed, which have become critical in communities across North Carolina. I’ve put these issues into my platform, a program I hope to champion and lead from the lieutenant governor’s office — I’m calling it The Affordable Living Initiative (ALI). My ALI platform establishes a state-wide initiative that brings together public/private partnerships, non-profits, urban and rural governments, legislators, environmentalists, home builders, and everyday citizens to help solve some of the problems that have become critical needs in communities across North Carolina.

Yvonne Lewis Holley

Yvonne Lewis Holley is the representative of the 38th District of the North Carolina State House. Lewis Holley is running for Lt. Governor.