R-CCC emerges as a different college in 2024

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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AHOSKIE – Just five years ago, Roanoke-Chowan Community College (R-CCC) was dealing with a myriad of issues, including probation by its accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and an unfavorable audit from the NC State Auditor’s Office.

Now in 2024, R-CCC is a different college.

R-CCC President Dr. Murray J. Williams explained in a recent interview that the Board of Trustees realized there were problems and took necessary action to stabilize the institution, believing that stabilization of the institution was their top priority.

During that time there had been discussion at the state level about closing R-CCC. At a September 2020 meeting of the State Board of Community Colleges, as reported by EdNC, the board pressed Interim R-CCC President Dr. Deborah Lamm about the college’s viability. According to the article, Lamm responded that she believed the college was a viable institution and that it had a future.

“Three top board members, Trustees [Jeri] Pierce, [Ronald] Gatling and [Andre] Lassiter, went to Raleigh to make the case for R-CCC,” said Williams. “They wanted to convey, with urgency, that R-CCC was a viable institution for the community and our students.”

During a period of much turnover in the college’s leadership, the Board of Trustees took the first step to steady R-CCC by hiring a new president in 2021. Williams joined the college on May 1 of that year.

At the announcement of Williams’ appointment, Pierce, then-chair of the Board, said, “It is her experience, dedication to the mission of the community college, commitment to student success, and interpersonal demeanor that has convinced the Board she is the right person for R-CCC today.”

Three years later, that sentiment still holds true. Gatling, the current Board Chair, echoed those thoughts, “Dr. Williams is exactly who we needed for the college back in 2021 and now. We needed her to lead R-CCC on to better days and she has done that. We want to change how the college works within the community and is seen by the community. Dr. Williams is successfully leading that charge.”

A second important step the Board of Trustees took was to work closely with the new president to ensure there was a strong president-board relationship. Williams noted that trustees Gatling, Lassiter, Pierce and Mary Harrell served as mentors to her. Each brought something different in providing guidance on how to deal with community stakeholders, legislators, the System Office, social aspects, and how a first-time president works with a governing board.

“All of them contributed to that mentorship during my first three years here,” said Williams.

Lassiter, now a former Trustee, stated, “The Board of Trustees quickly recognized that, to be successful in her new role, Dr. Williams would need mentoring as a new president. Her experience with community colleges had been in a different state and it was important to make sure that she understood how community colleges worked in North Carolina. Dr. Williams was humble and presented herself as a moldable president who was eager to work with the Board of Trustees to rebuild the College. The Board of Trustees also encouraged President Williams to find another president in the NCCCS who might serve as a mentor and provide insight from the perspective of a NCCCS president. In addition to the mentoring provided by the Board of Trustees, President Melissa Singler of Robeson Community College has been instrumental in helping to mentor Dr. Williams.”

Efforts to bring in a seasoned leadership team including the Vice President of Administrative & Fiscal Services, Vice President of Instruction & Student Services, and Vice President of Workforce Development has resulted in the College’s student success outcomes increasing over the last three years.

The NC Community College System (NCCCS) state performance measures report shows that Basic Skills Student Progress (Basic Skills Measurable Skills Gain Rate) increased for R-CCC from 26.9% in Academic Year (AY) 2021 to 31.5% in AY 2024. The basic skills FTE enrollment increased 200% over the three-year period from 10 in AY 2021 to 30 in AY 2024.

For instruction, Student Success Rates in College-Level English increased from 69.2% in AY 2021 to 72% in AY 2024. Success in College-Level Math increased from 44.2% in AY 2021 to 58%.

First Year Progression (Retention) numbers show an increase from 74% in AY 2021 to 77% in AY 2024. The curriculum completion rate (graduation rate) for AY 2021 was 58.6% compared to 71% for AY 2024.

The college’s transfer rate has also increased for R-CCC students, going from 79.2% in AY 2021 to 93.8% in AY 2024.

In the 2024 performance measures, R-CCC was the leading institution, meeting or exceeding five of the seven benchmarks. The college achieved an overall success rate of 71% in the Curriculum Completion (graduation rates) performance measure, which was the highest in the System. Additionally, R-CCC ranked second in the College Transfer performance measure with a success rate of 93.8% and tied with Western Piedmont for second place ranking for Success in Credit English at 72%.

With this increase in success, R-CCC is making a significant economic impact on the surrounding community. In a December 2021 report, Lightcast noted in a 2019-20 analysis, that the College generated $33 million in additional income for the area’s economy when accounting for operations, student spending and enhanced productivity of alumni. The additional income created by the college equals an estimated 1.6% of the total gross regional product of the service area, or 607 jobs.

“These results show that the changes made by the Board of Trustees to stabilize the institution have not only positively impacted student success but also has impacted the success of our community,” noted Dr. Williams.

R-CCC students’ success has been measured against state and national standards. When reviewing national student success outcomes using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), particularly the IPEDS Data Feedback Report 2020 and the IPEDS Data Feedback Report 2023, the College’s graduation rate has increased by 193.7%. Likewise, the retention rate has increased by 37.7%.

Additionally, the College is growing. The College’s FTE enrollment, which is the measure of a student’s academic load, typically calculated by the number of credit hours taken each semester, increased by 53% from 510 in 2021 to 782 in 2024..

In addition to R-CCC student success, the college has been awarded grants, developed partnerships, and added programs and equipment to increase opportunities for students. Some of the developments over the last three years include:

Received $15 million nonrecurring funding for the construction of a new health sciences building.

Received $282,415 from Hampton Roads Workforce Council to expand the “Weld to Work” certification course and provide building improvements to the Universal Technical Training Center.

Approved for $470,000 in SEID grant funds for welding program support, bringing the total to $752,415 in support of the welding program.

Received a clean audit from the Office of the State Auditor in 2021.

Reaffirmed without recommendations by SACSCOC in 2023.

Developed new strategic plan that started in 2022, providing areas of focus.

Partnered with Hertford County local government and Nucor to build the new CDL training site on campus and purchased two CDL trucks and trailers.

Hosted two golf tournaments to raise monies for the R-CCC Foundation – $19,000 was raised in 2023 and $14,000 was raised in 2024, totaling more than $30,000 to benefit student scholarships.

Increased broadband capacity and IT support.

Received $778,200 in Golden Leaf funding to renovate the Universal Technical Training Center in preparation for the mechatronics program launch and to establish community education centers in Lewiston Woodville in Bertie County, and Rich Square and Creeksville (near Conway) in Northampton County.

Received a $500,000 Expanding Community College Economic Impact Grant to start an LPN program.

Signed an agreement with Martin Community College to increase nursing graduates in the area.

Earned a 91% pass rate for the Associate Degree Nursing program (2023-24).

Opened an off-campus site in Rich Square – the Chief Joe White Education Center.

Continued to partner with the Lewiston Woodville Educational Vitality Center.

Received approval in January 2024 to offer classes at Bertie Correctional Institution.

Current R-CCC Foundation Chair Andre’ Lassiter received national recognition as the recipient of the Southern Trustee Leadership Award from the Association of Community College Trustees (2022).

Received a Dollar General grant of $10,000 to support the College & Career Readiness Program, benefiting high school equivalency learners.

Established an apprenticeship for medical assisting students at the Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center.

“This has been a team effort among the Board, R-CCC administration, faculty, staff, students, and the community. People here care about R-CCC and the community,” said Dr. Williams. “We are working tirelessly to fill positions that were once hard to fill. I’m proud of the fact that the College is stabilized, and people are interested in working and attending college in our local community.”