Enrollment Sees Comeback as More than 50% of Community Colleges Report Increases

Enrollment Sees Comeback as More than 50% of Community Colleges Report Increases

Monday, February 21, 2022 - 11:01am

RALEIGH – The N.C. State Board of Community Colleges (NCSBCC) today at its monthly meeting received information that enrollment climbed nearly 2 percent across North Carolina’s community colleges in the fall of 2021.

The growth was consistent, with 33 of 58 community colleges reporting increases. Enrollment boomed in basic skills education, advancing 40 percent. Short-term workforce education surged, jumping 22 percent. The number of students in traditional academic programs fell by 3 percent. The N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) serves more than 500,000 students a year, many of them part-time. Enrollment is calculated as a full-time equivalent measure.

The increases came after one year of pandemic declines as safety concerns, family obligations and employment challenges weighed on enrollment. Community college enrollment numbers traditionally ebb and flow with the economy, and the fall 2021 growth indicates a comeback as we emerge from the pandemic.

“The surge shows the value of the Community College System,” said Thomas Stith, NCCCS president. “We’re encouraged by the tremendous growth in workforce education programs. Our community colleges have always been a leader in workforce training and are proving once again we’re agile and able to meet our students where they are with the right resources and services to give them the tools to secure an in-demand, high-paying job.”

Last year, the legislature and governor approved the largest biennial budget for the Community College System in more than a decade. The $1.46 billion investment provided salary increases for faculty and staff, capital funding for the colleges and innovation opportunities for short-term workforce programs and traditional curriculum programs at the colleges. The goal was to scale up workforce training for high-demand fields to narrow the skills gap employers have experienced in North Carolina. Students can often move into well-paying jobs after just a few months of workforce programs.

Stith attributed the enrollment increases to several factors, including local innovations and leadership at the colleges, a renewed emphasis on workforce and apprenticeship training, and a marketing campaign that has promoted North Carolina’s community colleges.

“From top to bottom, our System is built to maximize partnerships at the state and local level,” Stith said. “Business and industry needs are not the same across the state, and it takes our 58 colleges to customize programs to meet the demands of the labor market in each region.”

Following are other highlights from the State Board meeting.

A report was made to the Board about Career & College Promise (CCP), which shows that nearly 69,000 students participated in dual enrollment opportunities at one of North Carolina’s Great 58 community colleges despite the pandemic. Further, students are being successful on their pathways with 84% having completed coursework with a C or better and an average grade point average (GPA) of 3.14 for pathways combined, up from 3.12 GPA the previous year. CCP allows for eligible high school students to enroll tuition-free in college classes at N.C. community colleges and universities through their high school. The report was produced by the N.C. General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee (JLECO) for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The State Board also approved the allocation of first-ever State Capital Infrastructure Funds (SCIF). The amount of $200 million was appropriated in Session Law 2021-180 over the 2021-2023 biennium. With these funds, in subsequent months, community colleges will submit applications for the State Board’s approval to establish capital projects.

The Board approved the allocation of $5 million in State funds for the Longleaf Commitment Community College Grant (LCCCG) to expand community college’s outreach and advising capacity to underserved students. The program supports the State’s commitment to ensure that students are surrounded by the support systems necessary to thrive from the first day of classes through graduation. NCCCS shares that student success vision and continues to improve and expand the colleges’ outreach and student success advising. Based on college-level assessment of student success outcomes and initiatives, these flexible funds can be used to expand evidence-based practices, including student advising, success coaching and services for underserved populations. These funds are allocated to colleges and are required to be matched in accordance with Session Law 2021-180, Section 6.11.

The Board received informational presentations that focused on the critical role that community colleges play in the state’s economic growth, in particular the importance of talent in attracting businesses to the state. Presenters were Gary Salamido, president and CEO of the N.C. Chamber; Chris Chung, CEO, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina; and Dr. Bruce Mack, vice president of Economic Development, N.C. Community College System.

Dr. Patricia A. “Patty” Pfeiffer was introduced by Geoffrey Hulse, Wayne Community College’s chair of the Board of Trustees, as the new president of the college. The Board approved her position at its December monthly meeting. She began as interim president on June 24, 2021, and became the college’s ninth executive on Jan. 1, 2022.

The Board approved $2 million of non-recurring funds allocated to ApprenticeshipNC in the recently passed State budget. The funds will be used to grow the program’s outreach to companies and potential apprentices with information on career opportunities in support of growing North Carolina’s economy. The program has doubled in the past four years and served nearly 17,000 North Carolinians in fiscal year 2021.

The Board also approved a new funding source for recruitment and retention of community college faculty in high-demand fields (Tier 1A and Tier 1B courses). Funds can be used for bonuses as well as salary increases, for hard-to-recruit (for example, a vacant position remains unfilled after multiple postings) or hard-to-retain (for example, a high turnover rate of this position or competing job offer) full-time and/or part-time faculty with a majority teaching load in Tier 1A and/or 1B courses (both curriculum and continuing education).

Two new Cooperative Innovative Schools (CIHS) have been approved for the 2022-2023 school year. EDGE Early College of Health Sciences a partnership school between Edgecombe County Schools and Edgecombe Community College will provide pathway opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in health sciences. Additionally, Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnologies is a partnership school between Wake County Public Schools and Wake Tech Community College. This partnership school will focus on meeting the growing demands for information and biotechnologies in the Triangle region.

As part of The State Board’s Strategic Planning Committee reviewed feedback from community college leaders and trustees collected during eight Regional Listening Sessions as part of its strategic planning process. The Committee also reviewed feedback from community college administrators and a summary of college priorities from their accreditation plans. This information will inform the System’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, scheduled to be approved by the State Board in May or June.

The Board approved the following System Office personnel actions:

  • Dr. Julia Hamilton was approved as a new hire for the position of information security officer. In the 2021 Appropriations Act (Session Law 2021-180), the legislature provided allocations for NC Community College System Office to create nine positions for cybersecurity support to prevent, mitigate and address Cybersecurity issues across our community college system. These nine new positions were approved by the State Board at their December 2021 meeting. Hamilton is the second individual hired to fill one of these nine new positions. Hamilton comes to the System Office from Craven Community College where she served as Chief Information Officer. Hamilton previously worked at the System Office from 2015 to 2017.
  • Kathy Davis was promoted to the position of associate vice president of Distance Learning Technologies. With the System Office since 2006, this promotion recognizes the critical nature and importance of community colleges’ efforts to deliver instruction through multiple delivery methods and to ensure that all students have access to high-quality instruction. In this new role, she will envision, design, develop, and implement comprehensive, strategic-level information and technology solutions and services to support the flexible and distance learning needs of the Community College System.

The System Office launched an organizational assessment in December 2021 to ensure that it is properly resourced and aligned with stakeholders to meet its vision and mission. The consultant for the work, CampusWorks, shared information about the process, timeline, and approach. A mix of activities such as documentation review, data analysis, benchmarking, workshops, focus groups, surveys, and interviews are being used as part of the assessment. The final report with an accompanying roadmap is expected in April.

About the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges (SBCC)

The SBCC is organized and operates in accordance with N.C. General Statute 115D-2.1, as amended by Session Law 2021-90. The Board has 22 members, 18 who are appointed to six-year terms, and four ex officio members (State treasurer, lieutenant governor, commissioner of Labor and N.C. Student Government Association president). Meetings occur the third Thursday and Friday of each month, with the exception of June and December. Read more.

Enrollment Sees Comeback