Boosting Community College Completion
Community colleges are at the center of new national efforts to educate more students for the jobs of tomorrow. There is a bipartisan focus on these institutions, highlighted recently by President Obama’s proposal to eliminate community college tuition, and by advocacy from N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, who has called North Carolina’s 58 community colleges the driver behind the state’s economic recovery and ability to attract well-paying jobs. “We know community colleges are a direct link to a better life for students from all kinds of backgrounds, and that they produce skilled workers that industries need,” said Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the N.C. Community College System. “Our goal is not only to get more students through our registration lines but also across our graduation stages, with skills they – and our industries – need to succeed.” In support of this focused effort, the John M. Belk Endowment has awarded $9.6 million to community colleges and their partners across North Carolina to help more students complete degrees that lead to sustainable wages and strengthen the state’s workforce. The largest grant of $7.75 million will bring a college completion program called Single Stop to North Carolina, which uses technology, training and counseling to connect students with community and government resources they might be eligible for but aren’t getting. Finances are the biggest stumbling block for many students, so helping them become more financially stable increases their chances of completing a degree that leads to a better job. Over three years, the Single Stop grant will pay for start-up and software development costs and implementation of services at more than a dozen sites, including community colleges, veterans’ centers and historically black colleges in North Carolina.
The additional John M. Belk Endowment grants will fund community college and state initiatives in leadership development, the creation of career pathways, and outreach to attract more students and entice adults who have completed some college to finish their degrees and other credentials. Following is a full listing of how these grants have been allocated:
- $50,000 to Achieving the Dream, a national organization working to help more college students succeed, to sponsor 10 N.C. community college presidents’ participation in a national leadership symposium to study new ways to help students finish college with a credential that leads to a good job.
- $550,000 to The Aspen Institute to bring the data gathering, site visit and feedback techniques it uses in its evaluation process for the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, to help selected N.C. community colleges enhance their completion outcomes.
- $150,000 to Brunswick Community College for its “Project Finish Line,” which aims to reengage students who have completed some college to return to complete their workforce credential or degree, in turn strengthening the county’s workforce.
- $175,000 to Davidson County Community College to create a “next generation” outreach effort by working with a national marketing agency to create new branding and marketing approaches to reach and attract students to high-demand careers.
- $125,000 to Degrees Matter!, a partnership program to increase the number of adults with college degrees in the greater Greensboro/High Point area, to hire a volunteer coordinator to train coaches who will help connect adults with some college background to college programs that will help them complete their degrees.
- $100,000 to the Foundation for the Carolinas to research and compile a menu of postsecondary education programs in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, a critical resource in helping create more upward mobility.
- $525,000 to N.C. State University to partner with The Aspen Institute to infuse its community college leadership programs with new curricula and resources for the next generation of community college leaders.
- $200,000 to NC Works, a partnership between the N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. community colleges and N.C. Department of Public Instruction, to develop a “pathways” program that will attract people to education and training programs for high-demand jobs within the state’s new regional prosperity zones.
- $7.75 million to Single Stop, a college completion program now working in eight states, which provides training, technology and comprehensive case management for students, including benefits screening and access, legal counseling, tax preparation and financial coaching to address issues such as debt management, budgeting and credit clean-up.
“The John M. Belk Endowment recognizes community colleges play a vital role in getting more North Carolinians into family sustaining jobs,” said executive director Kristy Teskey. “In a state with the America’s third largest community college system, the Endowment will continue to invest in their efforts to get more students through credentialing programs equipped with skills they need to excel in the jobs of tomorrow.”