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North Carolina Community Colleges Re-engage Adult Learners with Success Coaching

Ten community and technical colleges across North Carolina are banding together to help adult learners who have stopped out before earning a degree return to higher education. The NC Reconnect initiative, a coalition of North Carolina higher ed organizations and community colleges, began in 2021 with pilots at Pitt Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Fayetteville Technical Community College, Vance-Granville Community College and Durham Technical Community College, and will now expand to five additional NC institutions: Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Central Carolina Community College, Forsyth Technical Community College, Lenoir Community College and Wilkes Community College.

Supported by funding from the John M. Belk Endowment and Strada Education Network, the colleges partnered with student coaching nonprofit InsideTrack to "help former students navigate the complexities of re-enrollment, re-enter their virtual and physical campuses, and develop a plan to complete their degrees," according to a news announcement. In the first year, participating campuses successfully re-enrolled 753 stopped-out students; 68% of those learners completed their degree or credential or returned for the next term. Ultimately the initiative aims to re-engage up to 12,000 adult learners in the state.   

"For adult learners, returning to higher education can be a highly complex and deeply personal decision that we too often simplify. Instead, we need to create a personalized pathway for adult learner re-engagement that considers the whole student and his/her individual needs — financially, educationally, and professionally," said Dr. Lawrence Rouse, president of Pitt Community College, in a statement. "These outcomes demonstrate that coaching is a powerful resource that can assist with meeting both the complex needs of returning students as well as unlock avenues to educational and career advancement for adult learners."

"At a time when returning students and adult learners continue to navigate economic uncertainty, community and technical colleges can offer affordable and effective pathways to better jobs and better skills," said Carrie Lockhert, associate vice president of partner success at InsideTrack. "This work is surfacing new insights into the barriers to student re-engagement that will help community colleges across the state better reach and meet the needs of adult learners."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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