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What community college stories are we not telling?

Welcome to Awake58!  If you missed the previous newsletter featuring UNC system president (and now former NC Community College System president) Peter Hans’ perspective on the future of higher ed, click here. If you were forwarded this newsletter, please click here to subscribe.

We want to know your stories… More colleges announce fall plans… Presidential selection committee met on Monday… John Dempsey of Sandhills CC called for a “radical shakeup of higher education” in NC…

August is normally a busy time for the 58 North Carolina community colleges and their campuses, as hundreds of thousands of students show up on campus, along with faculty, staff, and administrators. This fall will undoubtedly be hectic, but with many colleges shifting their courses online, it will be a different kind of fall.

Experts usually expect enrollment to increase in a poor economy, but sources are telling me that enrollment numbers for many colleges are not trending up at this moment.  Will we see a spike at the end of registration? Or will parents remain home with their school-aged kids to help them traverse their own virtual education? Will we instead see a spike in the spring if COVID-19 has stabilized? 

What will the legislature do next summer when the state’s budget situation is clearer? 

Who will end up being appointed as the next president of the community college system? One source pointed out that many community colleges, even small ones, take more time to select a president than the timeline laid out by the presidential search committee.

We’ll be covering all of these stories, but what other stories need to be told? What issues should we research? Where should we visit as we hit the road? Please click the link below and share!

Presidential search committee update

The presidential search committee for the system office met yesterday to discuss the timeline and next steps. One point that came up over and over again was the need for confidentiality as the committee pushes forward with what promises to be a fast timeline for the selection process. According to the committee, the last time the system selected a president, Peter Hans emerged as the choice from a pool of 33 applicants.

As Isaias bears down on our coastal areas, please know our thoughts and prayers are with you. 

If you have any thoughts, we would love to hear them. And, as always, text COLLEGE to 73224, reply directly to this email, or tweet us @Awake58NC if you have other thoughts or ideas.



Director of Growth,

A spotlight on early childhood education

Our community college system will continue to play a vital role in training early childhood educators, even as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the business model and safety of the system itself. My colleague Liz Bell is conducting an early childhood listening tour this week (virtually, of course), and ahead of her tour she highlights the thoughts of some early childhood leaders in a just published piece.

She spoke with a range of folks including Mary-Margaret Kantor, an early childhood professional and education administrator at Central Piedmont Community College, who told Bell:

“I am concerned that they will not receive the type of brain-building experiences and the access to resources they would receive if they were in a high-quality early education program with highly qualified teachers. The early years are so absolutely essential to all later learning and opportunities in life, and even just a few months of deprivation from appropriate learning experiences can have a huge effect.

“Screens or underprepared caregivers cannot replace human interaction with skilled teachers in a young child’s development in any area — cognitive, language, social/emotional — and keeping children remote without the types of environment and experiences we know benefit them will have long-lasting detrimental effects.”

For the full piece, click here. Bell also shared lessons and findings from a recently conducted survey of pre-K teachers on their thoughts after a spring of remote learning this week. Check out the piece!

Funding and enrollment questions lie ahead

Historically the assumption for bad economies is that community colleges will see an increase in enrollment. As we approach fall, many campus leaders I’ve spoken with in the last week remain uncertain, and even downright pessimistic, about enrollment this fall. 

We will track the numbers as colleges resume in a few weeks. I am particularly interested in better understanding the reasons why students may not enroll this fall, and I think it is especially worth monitoring students who withdraw or take lesser course loads due to having young children who are now taking virtual courses in school districts across the state. 

A flat, or down, fall enrollment for community colleges may be offset by a spike in spring enrollment, but even that possibility is unclear.

Expect to hear a lot more about this issue in the weeks ahead, but also ahead of the next legislative session in 2021 when the state’s bleak budget situation will shape the decision making of policymakers. 

I would encourage you to spend time with all of our coverage on the NC Community College System funding model and enrollment. If you have limited time, check out this video explainer of our funding model, and then dig in on this well-researched piece on the historical challenges of the model.

ICYMI,  Peter Hans on the future of higher education, COVID-19, and attainment as he leaves the community colleges to lead the UNC system

Peter Hans’ tenure as president of the NC Community College system is over, but he is only moving a few miles down the road as he is now officially president of the UNC system. His transition comes at a turbulent time for our state and country, but also a historically challenging time for all institutions of higher education.

How do we continue to educate students safely in large lecture halls? How do we provide for their safety (and the safety of the housekeeping staff, etc) in crowded dorms? And if fewer students enroll, how do colleges keep going financially? Hans will be taking all of those challenges head on as he leads the 17 UNC institutions forward along with their chancellors.

And, of course, he is leaving as 58 community colleges wrestle with what the fall holds. Our conversation touched on several distinct issues including:

→ During his tenure, the system saw growth in enrollment, funding for career coaches, IT upgrades, and more. The key, per Hans, is the “unified system response” on all of these issues across both the system office and all of the individual institutions. Interim president Bill Carver must keep this moving forward this fall, and it will likely be a key topic of discussion for the next system president.

→ Hans pointed to faculty pay as one critical, unfinished component of the legislative agenda for the system. As he told me, “Our compensation for community college faculty and staff lags the nation.” As Hans mentioned, they had secured a salary increase prior to the budget impasse last year.

→ As for resuming face-to-face instruction during a pandemic: “It’s imperative we move forward in the fall. Do so safely, emphasizing the health of all concerned. But do not lose focus on the fact that our students cannot afford more downtime.”

→ Hans discusses the potential for common course numbering and a common course catalogue as part of what he hopes will be an even closer working relationship between community colleges and the UNC system moving forward. This was an issue that former UNC system president Margaret Spellings raised as an example of how four-year and two-year institutions could work together to make transfer pathways easier and bolster attainment. We’ll be monitoring progress on this front.

And as we mentioned last week, NCCCS Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Jennifer Haygood will remain part of Hans’ team as she is now moving over to the UNC system as Chief Financial Officer. For the full conversation, check out the video by clicking here.

A News & Observer + EdNC Virtual Town Hall: School during a pandemic

August is typically a time for buying back-to-school supplies, thinking about bus schedules and carpools, college visits for rising seniors, and the first practices for high school football. This August is radically different due to COVID-19. Parents are enrolling their students in virtual academies, wrestling with their own work schedules, and wondering about the safety of their children.

We know you have questions, and we’d like to help you find some answers. Leave your questions at the following link.

Join us on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. for a virtual conversation around the coming school year. Local experts will answer your most pressing questions. RSVP by clicking here!

Around NC

Sandhills CC president John Dempsey recently sent a letter to Peter Hans and Jennifer Haygood that was published in Business NC calling for a “drastic shakeup of the higher education” model. Demsey writes, “My idea is radical yet simple: Let community colleges educate all the state’s freshmen and sophomores and the universities educate all the juniors, seniors, and graduate students. It is not a secret that UNC costs per student are substantially higher than the cost of educating students at community colleges. Moving freshman/sophomore education to those colleges could potentially save (or enable colleges and the university to redirect) billions of taxpayer dollars in the coming decade.”

Former Gov. Bev Perdue said that it’s incumbent on the federal government to fund internet infrastructure in its upcoming COVID-19 stimulus bill. She was joined in the conversation by State Sen. Deanna Ballard, a chair of the Senate education and education appropriations committees, and Sharon Contreras, superintendent of Guilford County Schools. For the full conversation, click here.

Gaston College released their fall plans under the banner of “GC Safe” last week. For more, check out their website. Other colleges who announced their plans recently include James SpruntBeaufort CC, and Davidson CC.

The Century Foundation has a report out asking if states should make FAFSA completion mandatory.

Catawba Valley CC president Garett Hinsahw and Caldwell CC president Mark Poarch will participate in a WebEx on safely reopening higher education this fall today. Pre-registration is required.

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.