The State Council of Community Colleges returned to North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) on October 14 and 15 for their monthly meeting. It was their first gathering in the Council of State chamber since January 2020.
Chairman of the Board, Burr Sullivan, welcomed two new members of the Board of Trustees: Tom Looney, appointed by the North Carolina Senate, and Gaston Early College High School student Nathan Vasquez, appointed by the North Carolina Comprehensive Community College Student Government Association (N4CSGA).
Slight increase in registrations
Sullivan opened Friday’s meeting with a focus on registration. He insisted that Council and others pay close attention to registrations in depopulating counties.
“Over half of our counties are losing population and we have a community college in each of those counties,” Sullivan said.
NCCCS chairman Thomas Stith echoed Sullivan, saying the system’s strategic plan must include focused efforts on enrollment.
According to Stith, the North Carolina Community College System has seen a 27% drop in enrollment over the past 10 years. In 2020 alone, the system saw an 11% drop in registrations.
But there is some hopeful news. Although preliminary, Stith said the initial FTE estimates for fall 2021, which are based on the number of student hours accumulated, are up about 1% system-wide.
Of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina, 46 have FTE increases of at least 2%. Twenty-five colleges have FTE increases of at least 6%, and 10 have FTE increases of at least 10%.
“It’s interesting that our smaller colleges… are seeing most of the big increases at this point,” Stith said.
Stith mentioned several registration initiatives in his presentation to the board, including the pilot program for adult learners.
Last summer the John M Belk Foundation, myFutureNC, and the Belk Center for Leadership and Research in Community Colleges announced a pilot project and awareness campaign, called NC Reconnect, with five community colleges in North Carolina to attract adult learners to enroll in community college this fall.
Colleges made targeted efforts to re-engage mature students who were previously enrolled in their respective institutions and who had achieved 50-75% of a degree.
The Council will hear more about the Adult Learners Initiative at its November meeting.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report
The Council of State approved three recommendations relating to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) Report, which is the result of a year-long effort by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.
In July 2020, Peter Hans, then president of the North Carolina Community College System, appointed Dr. Don Tomas, president of Southwestern Community College, then president of Wayne Community College, Dr. Thomas Walker, to lead a new advisory system. Council Initiative on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
According to Plank, the objective of the initiative was to identify institutional or policy-related inequalities that limit opportunities for students, faculty and staff, and to make recommendations to address them. They were asked to specifically examine the State Council code and sample college policies that may negatively impact students of color. In addition, the initiative was asked to develop guidelines that colleges could use to review their own policies.
In addition to Drs. Walker and Tomas, the DCI working group included five other community college presidents: Dr Mark Kinlaw (Rockingham Community College), Dr David Johnson (Johnston Community College), Dr Maria Pharr (South Piedmont Community College), Dr Pamela Senegal (Piedmont Community College) and Dr Janet Spriggs (Forsyth Technical Community College).
JFF Associates was hired to assist the task force and worked in conjunction with the Belk Center for Leadership and Research in Community Colleges and ASA research.
The DCI working group presented three recommendations to the System Advisory Board in September 2021. The System Advisory Board includes members of the Board of state, NC Association of Community College Administrators, and North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents.
The System Advisory Board recommended and the Board approved the following:
- RDS (Residency Determination Service): Recommendation to review the RDS process to determine what barriers may exist and to seek ways to mitigate these impacts. Recommendation to share the DCI RDS Elimination Working Group request with the President’s Association Legislative Committee for consideration as part of the legislative program development process.
- State Council of Community Colleges Code: Recommendation for the System Office and the Policy and Governance Committee of the CCSC to propose updates to the State Council code based on the recommendations cited in the report provided by JFF.
- Student debt related to small fees related to fees: Recommendation for a task force to include both college and system office staff to provide advice to colleges and suggest best practices for handling small student debt related to tuition fees.
Prior to the conclusion of the DCI presentation, Board Member Ann Whitford asked Mary Shuping to share the background regarding RDS. Shuping is the former Director of Government Affairs for NCCCS and now serves as Director of Government and External Affairs for the North Carolina State Education Aid Authority (NCSEAA).
Shuping explained that RDS is a system that implements the law.
“Regardless of the underlying law in terms of establishing residency for education purposes, that’s what RDS does through an algorithmic process,” Shuping said. “As long as there are barriers, and I’m certainly not going to stay here and say that there are no barriers for students, whether it’s residency barriers or whatever… that’s is really with the law on the residence more than the RDS system which implements it.
According to Shuping, the questions that students must complete through RDS comply with the law in order to show that a student resides in North Carolina for tuition purposes.
Although there have been updates over the years to the Residence Law and RDS, the DCI report indicated that in 2018-2019, around 3,000 students started applying for RDS but did not have not completed. The report also highlighted particular groups of students for whom RDS can be a significant barrier:
- Immigrants, whatever their legal status, but above all the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for the Arrivals of Children, commonly called “Dreamers”, and people with undocumented members in their household.
- Older students who may have difficulty accessing materials.
- Young people separated from their parents.
Board members asked questions about the questions students were asked to answer when they completed the RDS.
Shuping told the board that she would provide a list of these questions along with an updated report showing how many North Carolina community college students have stopped the RDS application before filling it out. Shuping also said that she and her colleagues would be more than happy to help the Council and the NCCCS in any way they can.
Shuping subsequently asked the Council, “Is it time for us to think about the law and what the law requires?” ”
You can read the full report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion here.
A new program at Wayne Community College
A new program is expected to be launched at Wayne Community College. The board approved North Carolina’s first associate degree program specializing in artificial intelligence (AI). According to Wayne Community College Acting President Dr. Patty Pfeiffer, their program is just one of two artificial intelligence associate’s degree programs in the country offered by a community college.
According to a press release, “The program is intended to address the emerging shortage of people prepared for careers in artificial intelligence in the service area of Wayne Community College, as well as in North Carolina.”
The AI industry should grow into a $ 118.6 billion industry by 2025.
Classes in the AI program will begin this fall.
Vacancies in the system office
During their Thursday meeting, the Staff Committee discussed the vacancies in the System office. There are currently 36 vacant positions, and almost 40% of them are in the Technology Division.
Board member Looney said it was an issue that needed to be discussed further due to the number of IT jobs open in the state at the moment. He pointed out that when Apple arrives in the Triangle, the the average minimum wage for these employees will be close to $ 150,000.
One of the vacancies includes the post of Senior Vice President of External Affairs and State Council. Bryan Jenkins, who has held the position at System Office for 12 years, will be leaving at the end of this month. During the meeting, Jenkins was congratulated on his new position at East Carolina University and thanked for his leadership and work throughout the system.
“Our loss is certainly their gain,” said Dr. Mark Poarch, president of Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute.
The next State Council meeting is scheduled for November 18-19, 2021 in the Dr. W. Dallas Herring State Council Chamber located in the Caswell Building in Raleigh.