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Belk Center Receives Additional $4.3 Million in Funding to Further Support North Carolina Community Colleges and Foster Student Success

The Belk Center for Community College Research and Leadership, which is part of North Carolina State University’s College of Education, recently received two grants, totaling $4.3 million, aimed at serving North Carolina’s community colleges – particularly in rural parts of the state – in an effort to foster student success.

One grant, provided by The John M. Belk Endowment (JMBE), will allow the Belk Center, in partnership with the North Carolina Student Success Center and Achieving the Dream, to develop Teaching & Learning Hubs at North Carolina community colleges in an effort to establish a statewide professional learning program.

“These hubs, to be established in multiple locations across the state, will work in complement to individual colleges’ teaching and learning centers and professional development educators to support scalable and sustainable professional learning activities for full-time and adjunct faculty that will impact thousands of North Carolina students for years to come,” said Audrey J. Jaeger, Ph.D., executive director of the Belk Center and W. Dallas Herring Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development in the NC State College of Education. “This generous funding from the John M. Belk Endowment will allow us to continue our work to support faculty at North Carolina’s community colleges by helping them learn about, adopt, test and scale the evidence-based strategies that have increased equitable student success outcomes across the nation, while also supporting executive leaders in driving their teaching and learning mission.”

As part of the Teaching & Learning Hubs, the Belk Center has engaged the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program (Aspen) – a national authority on community college leadership development. Aspen will work with the Belk Center to design a series of virtual and in-person workshops on how North Carolina’s community college presidents can develop and execute a comprehensive strategy for enhancing teaching and learning excellence.

“It is an honor and a privilege for JMBE to partner and invest in statewide professional development programs for North Carolina’s community college faculty,” said MC Belk Pilon, president and board chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. “Supporting innovative efforts to leverage evidence-based strategies such as the Teaching and Learning Hubs is a key aspect of the Endowment’s aim to promote ongoing systemic change to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs.”

Additionally, in an effort to improve student outcomes and advance racial equity in educational systems, the Belk Center received a grant from the Ascendium Education Group to launch a three-year institutional capacity building project. The project will engage executive leadership in institutional transformation prioritizing learner success.

As part of the Ascendium grant work, the Belk Center will focus on developing and supporting executive leaders within the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) – empowering them to be change agents in their institutions. The project aims to remove systemic barriers and close gaps in completion rates for students from low-income backgrounds and those living in rural communities.

NCCCS data reveals that historically underserved groups complete college at rates between six to 18 percent lower than their white counterparts. Economic challenges in rural parts of the state – where many of these students reside – compound educational inequities. Importantly, North Carolina is one of a few states where students from rural communities are more racially diverse compared to most rural areas in the country.

“Since eliminating barriers requires identifying problems and implementing effective, learner-centered solutions, our work will aim at supporting leadership capacity with ongoing resources and partnerships, as well as evaluating learner success reforms,” Jaeger said. “Thanks to the support of Ascendium Education Group, the Belk Center can support presidents in their efforts to improve equitable student outcomes in North Carolina’s Community College System.”

This story originally appeared on the Belk Center website.