Rocky Mount, N.C.—
The charter members of the Eastern NC Consortium for Higher Education came together on Friday, June 8 at Nash Community College to demonstrate their commitment to a new venture in cooperation. Leaders from more than 10 colleges and universities have pledged to share ideas information, services, and resources in a concentrated effort to further their mutual goals and spur economic development and growth in communities in the eastern part of the state.
The list of charter members includes four community colleges: Cape Fear, Edgecombe, Nash, and Wilson; two public universities: East Carolina and Elizabeth City State; and four independent colleges: Chowan, Louisburg, Mount Olive, and NC Wesleyan. Barton College has joined as an associate and The Upper Coastal Plain Learning Council is an affiliate member. Others are expected to join in the near future.
“The consortium is situated in an area of the state where both access to higher education and student persistence are often limited by economic issues and student preparation,” said Dr. Beth Velde, director of public service and community relations at East Carolina University. “This unique collaboration in Eastern North Carolina will create new synergies.”
The founding members studied other educational consortia including highly successful groups in Raleigh and the Tidewater region of Virginia. NC Wesleyan College President James A. Gray, III is serving as the group’s interim president. Gray said, “ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard immediately jumped on the idea that collaboration is king and said he’d do anything to help. That validated the concept that the community colleges and large public universities have a common goal and want to pitch in toward the same objectives.”
Each college will remain a separate entity; however, this informal partnership will allow each school to share in the resources on the partners’ campuses expanding the ability of each institution to offer more to its students. By working together, the colleges will have a greater impact on higher education through opportunities such as: combined professional development activities, shared library accessibility, study-abroad options, pursuit of grants, and more. The consortium is planning to open their doors for cross-registration, permitting students from one campus to take classes on another campus at no extra charge in tuition or fees.
“The consortium is a great opportunity to share what we are doing and promote all of the positive initiatives going on,” said Dr. Deborah Lamm, president of Edgecombe Community College. “I do believe that collaboration is the key to success for people in Eastern North Carolina.”
The Eastern NC Consortium for Higher Education has been under development since the winter of 2011. The member colleges have developed and signed a written Memorandum of Understanding that describes the basic framework and functions of the consortium as agreed to by all the members.
In addition to organizational meetings, the consortium hosted its first shared professional development event on March 23 at Louisburg College. Faculty and staff from the member schools attended the seminar focused on undergraduate retention. The next conference will bring together reference librarians and other library staff on July 18 at NC Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount. The group will learn from each other and discuss ways to bring online resources to students at all of the member schools.
Gray said, “There’s a direct link between education — higher education, and economic growth. If we can come together to help our students in Eastern North Carolina, it will be a wonderful thing, indeed.” He continued, “It may take some time to work through the details of what we want to do, but this cooperative effort has tremendous potential to have a positive impact on this region through the united power of higher education.”