Community colleges deserve support
To the Editor:
As North Carolina faces an economic crisis amidst a pandemic, our community colleges will be key to recovery efforts.
North Carolina will undoubtedly turn to our 58 community colleges to train and retrain our state’s workforce to meet the increasing demands of a recovering economy and changing business world. To do that, our colleges need to be able to retain and recruit the best faculty and staff who can provide the training our students and businesses need to be successful.
Many businesses face the challenge of recruiting qualified, in-demand employees and then keeping those employees from leaving to go to another employer. North Carolina’s community colleges are no different. Attracting and keeping highly qualified professionals to prepare North Carolina’s future workforce continues to be a significant challenge – especially in high-demand, high-skilled areas such as nursing, technology and trades. Although North Carolina has the third largest community college system in the nation, community college faculty salaries, as a whole, consistently rank near the bottom in national comparisons.
Each year, 700,000 students enroll in the state’s 58 community colleges to acquire valuable professional skills and knowledge in high-demand, highly-skilled occupations such as nursing, technology, and trades. In our area, we estimate that approximately 90 percent of students graduating from Southwestern Community College with a certificate, diploma, or degree stay in the area to work and live. The faculty and staff at SCC work tirelessly to prepare local students for careers in our community, improving the lives of students and their families right here in Western North Carolina. The fact that SCC was named the top community college in the nation by BestColleges.com is a testament to their hard work and dedication to each student’s success.
As lawmakers consider many important issues to our state during this legislative session, our North Carolina Community Colleges are supporting legislation asking for a 7 percent salary increase for faculty and staff. If community college faculty and staff were to receive this salary increase, it would be a significant step toward ensuring that North Carolina has the professionals in place to train the workforce of the future to help business and industry emerge from the pandemic and rebuild the economy.
I encourage you to contact your representatives in the General Assembly and urge them to support the 7 percent salary increase to help North Carolina community colleges recruit and retain the talented faculty and staff required to rebuild the state’s workforce and economy. Please support this investment in our community.
Lambert G. Wilson
Chairman, Southwestern Community College Board of Trustees