Transforming higher ed: How Charlotte leaders are tackling today’s challenges

Transforming higher ed: How Charlotte leaders are tackling today’s challenges

2023-06-06T14:49:04-04:00June 6th, 2023|Charlotte, Economy, Education|

Writer: Eleana Teran

3 min read June 2023 —  In the shifting landscape of higher education, academic institutions in North Carolina are implementing strategies to continue providing best-in-class education for their students. In interviews with Invest:, Greater Charlotte’s higher ed leaders shared their key priorities and initiatives, shedding light on the transformative efforts aimed at advancing education in the region. 

From implementing career readiness initiatives and creating affordable and accessible education to building competitive skills and enhancing infrastructure for new programs, the role of higher education is being redefined. Hear from these education leaders on fostering student success, cultivating industry partnerships and engaging with the community in Charlotte.

Implementing career readiness initiatives

Anthony Davis, President, Livingstone College

“One of the new programs that we are initiating is our Career Readiness Institute, where at the end of the academic year, all freshmen who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher will be enrolled in this program where we will start developing them for workforce readiness. We believe that’s critical in making sure that when they graduate, they have a unique set of skills that will enable them to compete and contribute in a global context with confidence and competence. One of the recent crowning achievements at Livingstone College is through President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative. We will have a bio-manufacturing research hub on our campus where our students and members of the community can be trained for jobs in this sector that are coming to the region.”

Creating affordable and accessible education

Fred Whitt, President, Lenoir-Rhyne University

“Student debt and affordability for higher education are always issues. That’s why we’ve been looking at ways to reduce tuition for the past four years. After the pandemic, we decided to take a closer look at our tuition model and found that we were the fourth highest in North Carolina. We realized that many students were not even considering us because they were only looking at the sticker price, not realizing that with our endowment, the actual cost was much lower. We’ve since reduced the sticker price from $43,000 to $30,000 and tried to market it more effectively so that students know what they can expect to pay. Additionally, we’ve enhanced our transferability and bilateral articulation agreements with community colleges. These agreements allow students to attend a community college for two years, and then transfer to LR for a four-year degree for a fraction of the cost. We’re also working to ensure that students have flexibility in their core curriculum and major and that they are successfully placed in graduate school or employed after graduation so that they get a good return on their investment.”

Building competitive skills

Connie Ledoux Book, President, Elon University

“Elon has an employer partners program. We work with employers that are in each of the disciplines, from business to engineering, science and communications. We are in active conversations between our faculty and the recruiters. We place students in internships locally and from coast to coast, including a significant number each year in major cities like Los Angeles, New York and Charlotte, where employer needs are in sync with our academic offerings. Many of those internships lead directly to offers of employment for our students. We do a lot of case studies with our business partners so we understand the challenges that the employer is facing. We’re trying to keep our relationships vibrant. We also have advisory councils and seats in each of our schools that are made up of employers from key sectors. We have selectively added graduate and professional programs that produce students who are ready to move directly into productive careers. Our School of Law has continued to expand the number of students, and we have outstanding health sciences programs in nursing, physician assistant studies and physical therapy. Many of these students graduate and stay right here in North Carolina.”

Enhancing infrastructure for excellence

Carol Spalding, President, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

“We are developing our South Campus to make it a large provider of public service professionals, such as EMTs and police officers. We also passed a 2020 Rowan County bond issue called the Technology Educational Complex for $45 million. It will support new facilities for automotive, machining, welding, and various other hands-on programs. We want to expand these programs and make them more modern and attractive to students. Rowan-Cabarrus is developing programs so that you can go to work right away in manufacturing or as a nurse assistant and build toward your career. We have a good capacity for those programs and will continue to build them as jobs change. For example, the BioWork certification is new for us, but it will serve Eli Lilly and the industry partners that will follow the company to Concord.” 

Engaging the community

Nido Qubein, President, High Point University

“Many of our graduates remain in this area. If you look at our Physician Assistant Program, as an example, 67% stay in this region, which means we’re providing healthcare expertise to the region. And 53% of our physical therapy graduates are licensed to work in the state. North Carolina is attractive to people and the state is growing by leaps and bounds. We’re contributing through our people, whose ideas and talent benefit the region, and we’re contributing philanthropically. Our students, faculty and staff give more than 500,000 hours a year in service and stewardship, volunteering on boards and at nonprofits in the city. We’re the only university in High Point, which means we have a responsibility to be responsive.”

Image via Elon University

For more information, visit: