Understanding demographic changes in NC 

The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) is a major provider of education and training to North Carolina workers and plays a critical role in helping the state ensure sufficient levels of education and training to remain competitive in the changing economy. 

Despite the increasing demand for education, NCCCS has seen steadily declining enrollments since recovery from the Great Recession began in 2010. While population projections suggest that NCCCS may recover some of the recent enrollment declines, many individual community colleges face increased recruitment challenges due to demographic changes. 

In 2018, NCCCS launched a new strategic planning process and asked Carolina Demography to look at demographic trends and their potential impacts on the community colleges’ target population: adults ages 18-64 without a college degree. 

“We felt strongly that better understanding the demographic changes occurring in North Carolina was fundamental to our planning process and for charting a future direction for our System,” says Jennifer Haygood, Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President of the NC Community College System. 


Identifying challenges and opportunities 

Drawing on over two dozen data sources, we presented NCCCS with a detailed guide to the current landscape of educational attainment and enrollment in North Carolina’s community colleges and other colleges and universities. In addition to identifying enrollment trends, we integrated NCCCS data with external data sources and create a comprehensive database for the organization to use internally. We also outlined challenges and opportunities for the community college system to reach, engage, and successfully enroll future students at all stages of the post-secondary pipeline.  

The delivered report paints a picture of post-graduation intentions for individuals graduating from North Carolina’s high schools, accounting for variations across geographies, sex, and race/ethnicities. We also created age-based projections for NCCC’s target populations.   

“Carolina Demography’s analysis underscored how the population of potential community college students is changing,” says Haygood. “The analysis made a compelling case for the need to better connect with students who are not enrolling at any higher education institution after high school graduation and to look closely at the barriers to postsecondary enrollment faced by the growing Hispanic population in North Carolina.” 


The NCCCS has used the report to inform its strategic plan and put greater focus on “summer melt,” achievement gaps, and Latino student outreach. 

Additionally, the State Board of Community Colleges has appointed a task force, which will begin meeting in late summer 2019, to focus on the issue of community college enrollment challenges and strategies to sustain and grow our institutions. The enrollment projections developed by Carolina Demography will be discussed in depth by this task force,” says Haygood. 


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