N.C. Community College System President Scott Ralls was in the spotlight Thursday at a U.S. Senate education committee hearing.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions heard from a handful of higher education leaders about new approaches to boost productivity in college classrooms.
Ralls talked about SuccessNC, the community college system’s four-year effort to focus singularly on student success and completion. The system adopted 15 statewide strategies to “move the dial” on student success, Ralls said.
He talked about lessons learned. The 58-campus system created structured pathways for student degrees and credentials, so that students don’t flounder with random courses that don’t connect or lead anywhere. The colleges zeroed in on places where students lose momentum and too often drop out – not surprisingly, that was often in remedial courses, which Ralls called “the Bermuda Triangle” of education. And, he said, today’s non-traditional student needs meaningful “on ramps” and “off ramps” to come into education, earn a credential, and then exit and perhaps re-enter later according to career needs.
As Congress begins to consider reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Ralls suggested to senators that they consider redesigning financial aid to encourage students to accelerate their path toward a degree.
Both of North Carolina’s senators, Kay Hagan, a Democrat, and Richard Burr, a Republican, praised Ralls in their introductions.
“He is where the rubber meets the road,” Burr said of Ralls.