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Some community college students are back on campus

Welcome to Awake58!  I hope that you found some silver linings and joy in the holiday weekend. If you missed last week’s newsletter on the CARES Act, click here. If you were forwarded this newsletter, please click here to subscribe.

Nash Community College’s campus and others are reopening for some face-to face-instruction… We will be examining FAFSA completion rates and why they matter so much all week… The Belk Center has helped community college faculty transition to online… 

As you may know, we travel a lot here at My colleague Mebane has always said our offices are out in community — in colleges, schools, churches, and coffee shops across the state. And as some of you may remember, this newsletter launched when we went to all 58 community colleges in one short, targeted blitz!

In other words, we have missed seeing all of you, as we know you must miss being on campus, and my colleague Molly Osborne was particularly happy to be out on the road recently as Nash Community College reopened for some face-to-face instruction two weeks ago.

“I’m just so happy to be back,” Nash Community College CDL instructor Gary Bunn told Molly. Bunn is helping his spring semester students complete the training hours required to become certified truck drivers. You can tell that he was missing his people:

“The last couple of months for me have been disappointing because I love what I do, and I love the facility I work with, and even more than that … I love giving people the opportunity for a new lifestyle.”

For Molly’s full story, including a video that shows how the college is taking protective measures, check out the story by clicking below!

Click here for the story

Do you have thoughts on face-to-face instruction resuming? Text COLLEGE to 73224 to join the conversation or reply directly to this email.

Thank you for reading!

Have a great week,


Director of Growth,

PS – Be sure to follow us on Twitter @Awake58NC

FAFSA completion is key to postsecondary attainment. That is one reason we’re focusing on the issue all week.

My colleague Analisa Sorrells places the FAFSA in context in the opening piece in our new series looking at this important issue:

Last year, North Carolina established the myFutureNC postsecondary attainment goal: by 2030, the state needs 2 million 25- to 44-year-olds to hold a high-quality credential or college degree. On its current trajectory, North Carolina is predicted to have a 400,000 shortfall in individuals with those degrees or credentials in 2030, leaving employers without the skilled workers they need to fill available jobs.

Closing the educational attainment gap means more students need to enroll in postsecondary education, persist in their coursework, and attain a credential or degree. One factor that’s associated with all of those things? Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion.

According to a 2020 report by Education Strategy Group (ESG), students who complete the FAFSA are more likely to enroll in higher education — 90% of FAFSA completers attend college directly after high school, compared to just 55% of students who don’t complete the FAFSA. And, FAFSA completers are more likely to persist in their coursework and obtain a degree.

For the rest of the story, including six lessons for states who wish to boost attainment, click here. One key strategy? Set a goal. 

We have other pieces on the FAFSA out now and will publish more throughout the week:

You need to fill out the FAFSA. Here’s how. 

My colleague Robert Kinlaw walks through how to fill out the FAFSA, including what to do if your or your family’s income has changed significantly due to COVID-19. Share it with your students!

One perspective: Lessons I have learned from students and parents about FAFSA completion. 

Marcia is the Associate Director for Outreach in the Grants, Training, and Outreach Division at the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA). In this role, she provides outreach services around accessing financial aid. In this piece, she shares some lessons she has learned throughout her career, including the need to introduce students to the FAFSA prior to their senior year!

Do you want to know where NC stands in FAFSA completion? 

Molly and Analisa dug in on the data, made it possible for you to look at completion data by school district, and more. They highlight a concerning impact of COVID-19: Both FAFSA completion and FAFSA renewal rates are down over the past two months when compared to the same time period last year. 

Return to each day this week for more on FAFSA completion. And if you have thoughts on the FAFSA, FAFSA completion rates, or if you wish to share your story, text COLLEGE to 73224 to join the conversation or reply directly to this email.

Faculty profile: A Davidson County Community College educator created a lightboard out of a storm door to make learning come alive

As Davidson County Community College (DCCC) educator John Hardee dealt with the transition to online teaching for his courses, he knew he needed to do something to bring instruction and coursework alive, so he went to work with a storm door. 

Hardee told my colleague Caroline that moving the course online was a “seamless transition.” Hardee went on to say the most difficult thing for students was losing the consistency of physically going to school. 

This is why Hardee went to work: “The reason I did [the lightboard] is because my way of lecturing and interacting and teaching material in the classroom is my strength. You don’t have to create an online class – just adapt what was working in your classroom.”

For his recommendations and instructions on how to do the same, check out the story.

Here’s how the Belk Center helped community college faculty shift to online teaching during COVID-19

In about two weeks time, community colleges had to shift coursework to online-only instruction for thousands of students who had previously opted for face-to-face instruction. This was a herculean task for the entire system, particularly given that each college had to implement their own strategies. And a lot of the work fell on the shoulders of faculty members — some of whom had not taught online before.

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research at NC State immediately reached out to presidents and administrators to see how it could help during this chaotic time. The answers that came back centered around faculty and staff support, so they moved to make resources — including webinars — available immediately.

I was curious to see how it all played out, so I reached out to the staff of the Belk Center, as well as faculty and staff who had participated in the webinars or benefitted from the resources the Center collected.

Amy Poirier, a faculty member leading production agriculture classes associated with Agribusiness Systems at Mitchell Community College, was one of the folks I caught up with. Poirier said her immediate concern was how to effectively teach online since her previous students were traditionally not as responsive to online learning.

“I had already developed a lot of my material from scratch,” she said. “When faced with moving online, I felt like I had to repeat this work since it was in a different format.

“The most challenging part of the transition was the time (and data) associated with recording online lectures. And the disappointment when a student stopped participating, especially when the student was doing so well in the traditional, in-class setting.”

For more on the faculty stories, or to access the resources, click over to for my full story!

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.