RALEIGH – More than 300 presidents, trustees, students and supporters of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges met with legislators April 3 to promote the system’s workforce-focused legislative agenda.
At a briefing before the legislative visits, NCCCS President Peter Hans told the assembled “community college family” that they were a powerful voice for the system. “Now is our time to lift up all North Carolinians,” he said. “Community colleges are this state’s future.”
The system’s legislative agenda, announced in January by the NC Community College System, NC Association of Community College Presidents and NC Association of Community College Trustees, contains the following priorities:
- $12 million to complete funding for short-term workforce training programs that lead to state- or industry-recognized credentials. The additional investment would place funding for these programs on the same level as funding for traditional academic programs. It also would allow community colleges to be more responsive and flexible to local business and industry needs since programs can be started quickly.
- $15 million to upgrade workforce-development-focused information technology systems serving all 58 community colleges, including online registration for workforce development courses. An upgraded IT system would integrate modern technologies that students, business and industry want, enhance data quality and accessibility, and eliminate manual processes and customizations, system leaders say.
- $2.8 million to expand the Career Coach Program. Career coaches are embedded in high schools to assist students with determining career goals and identifying community college programs that align with those goals. Currently, North Carolina has only 64 career coaches. The investment would provide for up to 30 additional coaches.
- $2.3 million to fund workforce-focused campuses for Forsyth Tech, Guilford Tech, Richmond Community College and Wake Tech. These additional campuses, which provide comprehensive instructional support at convenient locations apart from a college’s main campus, have been approved by the State Board of Community Colleges.
- $6.8 million to stabilize budgets for colleges that suffered enrollment losses following Hurricane Florence.
- Increase faculty and staff compensation to bring it closer to the national average of $60,422. The average salary for full-time faculty in North Carolina is $47,362.
- Reduce barriers to student enrollment by simplifying Residency Determination Services, the online system for determining whether a student qualifies for in-state tuition.
John Watts, chairman of the trustees association, said that for every dollar invested in community colleges, there is a $4.10 benefit to the state. “Community colleges provide great impact to our state’s economy and they impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every day,” he said.
Dr. David Shockley, president of Surry Community College and the presidents association, said the system serves the most diverse population of any higher education institution in the state, including students deserving of a second chance, high school valedictorians, and adults returning to school. “At the end of the day, everything we do is all about students and helping them reach their goals,” he said.