RALEIGH – North Carolina community college leaders unveiled their 2019 legislative agenda this week, focusing on investments to improve workforce development.
These are worthy requests that represent a solid, forward-looking plan. We hope the NC General Assembly will heed them.
The agenda, announced by the NC Community College System, NC Association of Community College Presidents and NC Association of Community College Trustees, includes requests for increased investment in short-term training and upgrades to information technology.
“North Carolina’s community colleges are the backbone of workforce development, and additional investments will help them address the skills gap facing businesses and industries,” said Peter Hans, president of the system.
The system’s agenda includes the following priorities:
- $11.5 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 industry needs.
- $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 help students determine career goals and identify community college programs that align with those goals. Currently, North Carolina has only 64 career coaches. The investment would provide for up to 30 more coaches.
- $2.3 million to fund workforce-focused campuses for Forsyth Tech, Guilford Tech, Richmond Community College and Wake Tech. These additional campuses would provide comprehensive instructional support at convenient locations apart from a college’s main campus.
- Increased faculty and staff compensation to bring the system closer to the national average of $60,422. The average salary for full-time faculty in North Carolina is $47,362.
“Community college faculty salaries in North Carolina rank 41st in the nation,” said NCACCT Chairman John Watts.
“Because our salaries are falling so far behind, it is extremely difficult to recruit and retain highly qualified faculty in critical workforce training areas, including health-care fields like nursing and high-tech jobs such as automotive technology, computer-aided drafting/manufacturing and engineering.”
The system also wants to reduce barriers to student enrollment by simplifying Residency Determination Services, the online system for determining whether a student qualifies for in-state tuition.
These investments represent the kind of funding needed to create upward mobility and attract new industry – both of which are badly needed.