Wilkes Re-Enrollment Exceeds Expectations

May 24, 2023

by Wilkes Journal-Patriot:

Wilkes Community College’s results through NC Reconnect, an effort to re-enroll adult students who left before completing degree or credential programs there, so far are exceeding expectations.

“We have been blown away by the results we have achieved with our adult learners” so far, said Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president.

With funding from the John M. Belk Endowment, NC Reconnect was launched at WCC last fall and successfully engaged 698 adults who previously were enrolled at the college but left before completing requirements for credentials or associate degrees.

Of those 698 engaged, 107 (about 15%) re-enrolled at WCC. The target expectation was for 5-6% of those engaged to re-enroll, said Jody Call, executive director of strategy at WCC.

“We were elated to see this response to this initiative, and we have been equally pleased to see the positive outcomes for these adult learners who only needed a few classes to cross the finish line and complete their degrees,” added Call, working closely with NC Reconnect.

Of the 107 who re-enrolled, 90 completed requirements credentials (certificates or diplomas) or degrees by the end of the fall 2022 semester. Many earned multiple credentials.

Call said there are promising signs for these adult learners this spring, with 67 from fall 2022 progressing to this semester.

Three students who initially signed up for fall but didn’t progress have enrolled again.

Cox said the high retention rate with students who re-enrolled at WCC through NC Reconnect is remarkable. “We are so proud of these students and look forward to working with them to achieve their educational and career goals.”

An additional 28 new adult learners who didn’t return during the initial fall 2022 outreach chose to re-enroll in spring 2023.

Mike Krause, senior advisor to the Charlotte-based John M. Belk Endowment, said WCC’s results with NC Reconnect in the fall 2022 semester and this semester “indicate stellar performance on the part of Wilkes Community College in shepherding adult students through the all-important first semester.”

Krause added, “WCC has become a leader in the state for serving adult learners and there are multiple strategies developed by Dr. Cox and his team that we are seeking to spread to other colleges in North Carolina.”

NC Reconnect was launched with Blue Ridge, Pitt and Vance-Granville community colleges and Durham and Fayetteville technical community colleges in 2021.

WCC, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Central Carolina Community College (Sanford), Forsyth Technical Institute in and Lenoir Community College (Kinston) are the second cohort in NC Reconnect.

A third cohort, to be launched in fall 2023, will include five more of the state’s 58 community colleges.

Call said NC Reconnect targets adult learners who previously completed at least 25% of a program of study within the past five years. He said WCC was able to offer them free tuition scholarships as part of the college’s goal of removing non-academic barriers.

He said these barriers account for more than half of the reasons students leave WCC. Examples of these barriers are costs and availability of childcare, transportation and housing, as well as food insecurity and high utility and other living expenses. WCC established the Resource Connections Center in 2021 to help address these issues by connecting student with community resources for non-academic support.

NC Reconnect’s marketing and outreach efforts on behalf of WCC began in May 2022. This included social media campaigns, personal communications to each student via phone, texts and emails.

An open house at WCC’s Window World Hall on June 6 provided returning adult learners the opportunity to register, receive advice and financial aid assistance with a catered meal.

“We remain steadfast in improving the economic mobility of our friends and neighbors in the communities we serve and helping them complete a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree is our commitment,” said Call.

NC Reconnect is a joint effort of myFutureNC and the John M. Belk Endowment. It builds upon the myFutureNC goal of ensuring that 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or a postsecondary degree by 2030, partly to help address the state’s workforce needs.

Cox has been on the myFutureNC Commission since it was created in 2019.