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CHARLOTTE – A coalition of five North Carolina community colleges — Pitt Community CollegeBlue Ridge Community CollegeFayetteville Technical Community CollegeVance-Granville Community College and Durham Technical Community College — on Thursday announced a new campaign designed to help students who have stopped out to re-enroll in higher education to complete their degrees.

With funding from John M. Belk Endowment and Strada Education Network, the five colleges are working with national nonprofit InsideTrack to help former community college students navigate the complexity of re-enrollment, resume their studies, and develop a plan to complete their degrees.

“Across North Carolina, there are thousands of working adults who started on the path to a college degree, but too often life circumstances beyond their control intervened, forcing them to pause their education plans,” said Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “We need to help understand and remove barriers to re-enrollment and college completion for individuals whose studies were disrupted by the pandemic—and for the thousands of other North Carolinians seeking to advance in their careers.”

According to 2019 data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there are more than 518,000 North Carolinians with some college, but no degree—a number that has likely risen with decreases in college enrollment during the pandemic. At the same time, 67 percent of all jobs in the state are projected to require a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030, but just 49 percent of state residents aged 25 to 44 currently meet those requirements.

To help address these gaps and support individuals who have stopped out, the colleges will work with InsideTrack to help up to 12,000 former students to navigate the process of re-enrolling. Using one-on-one voice, text, and digital communication, professional coaches from InsideTrack will engage with former students to help them determine if now is the right time to re-enroll.

The re-enrollment campaign will also identify and connect students with on-campus resources ranging from financial aid, health and wellness, and academic support services to help them overcome barriers during the re-enrollment process.

“Addressing barriers to community college re-enrollment is an investment in the economic vitality of the state of North Carolina—and the 500,000+ adults who have some college, but have not yet finished a degree or certificate,” said Carrie Lockhert, associate vice president of partner success at InsideTrack. “This is about helping working adults to fulfill their college-going and career aspirations by providing the resources and support needed to restart their studies—and finish strong.”

Research and evaluation will also play a critical role in the work, to not only measure the campaign’s success but also support plans for replication. Already, coaches are generating new insights on the most common obstacles students encounter as they consider re-enrolling in community college—from the stigma of returning to complete their degree and the challenge of balancing family and job commitments.

“As the pandemic recedes, we know that many North Carolinians are looking for a fresh start, and we believe our community colleges are a great place for their journey to begin,” said MC Belk Pilon, President and Board Chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. “In a matter of months on a community college campus, adult learners can acquire skills and credentials that can change their families’ economic trajectory. Our goal is for all residents of our state to have access to an education that will lead to skills, credentials, and degrees, and ultimately the opportunities to achieve their dreams.”

In addition to funding from the Belk Endowment, the Better Skills, Better Jobs campaign also has the support of several key statewide higher education groups including the North Carolina Community College System Office, Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, UNC System Office, and MyFutureNC, a college access nonprofit focused on efforts to reach North Carolina’s educational attainment goal of 2 million high-quality credentials or postsecondary degrees by 2030.

“As we work to meet the diverse needs of employers in the Research Triangle region, we recognize the critical importance of helping working adults return to higher education to up- and re-skill—especially those who bring substantial educational experience but need to refresh their skills for new roles,” said John B. Buxton, president of Durham Technical Community College. “In collaboration with community colleges and partners across North Carolina, this initiative will help us to build and sustain the versatile workforce needed to support a strong and inclusive economy in the years to come.”

Participating colleges are now in the process of re-enrolling students to start during the fall 2021 term. For more information on how to enroll, please visit betterskillsbetterjobs.com.

About InsideTrack: InsideTrack is passionate about student success. We partner with institutions and organizations to improve enrollment, persistence, completion and career readiness. Our student support methodology uncovers first hand feedback about student goals and challenges. Through strategic guidance, staff training and student coaching, we help institutions turn this feedback into actionable insights that drive better student outcomes. As a nonprofit member of Strada Education Network, we offer partners access to a comprehensive range of student success solutions as well as the latest research and insights on student success. We’ve supported more than 2.5 million students since 2001 and currently serve over 4,000 programs. Visit us at www.insidetrack.org and follow us on Twitter @InsideTrack.

About the John M. Belk Endowment: Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the John M. Belk Endowment is a private family foundation committed to transforming postsecondary educational opportunities to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs. Its mission is aligned with the vision of its founder, the late John M. Belk who served four terms as mayor of Charlotte and was CEO of the department store company Belk, Inc. He created the John M. Belk Endowment in 1995 to fund a national merit scholarship program for his beloved alma mater, Davidson College. Now led by Mr. Belk’s daughter, MC Belk Pilon, the John M. Belk Endowment staff and board continue to partner with innovative, results-oriented programs in North Carolina to further Mr. Belk’s values, legacy, and focus on the value of education as a means to personal fulfillment and community vitality. For more information, please visit jmbendowment.org.

About Strada Education Network: We are a new kind of nonprofit social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy, mission-aligned investments and support for a network of affiliate organizations. Together, we work to better serve the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers.