Gates Foundation grant recognizes CPCC as a leader in student success initiatives

last modified Nov 02, 2011 05:20 PM

Five North Carolina colleges are collaborating as part of a national effort to devise and share new approaches to help more young people obtain a degree, certificate or credential. The schools will share a $500,000 twelve-month planning grant to launch the five-year project in North Carolina. Participating colleges include Central Piedmont Community College, Guilford Technical Community College, Davidson County Community College, Martin Community College and Wake Technical Community College. The North Carolina Completion By Design partners will collaborate on the design and implementation of a comprehensive model to increase the number of low income, young adults who complete their college education. The model will be piloted at the five colleges and eventually scaled up across the state in partnership with the North Carolina Community College System.

The North Carolina partnership is one of four chosen for the Completion by Design project, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The colleges were selected because of their innovative ideas on improving the completion rates on their campuses. They were picked for the project after a rigorous competition that was announced last October at the White House Summit on Community Colleges.

“CPCC is honored to be among the five community colleges chosen to represent the state in this signature initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Vice President for Learning at CPCC Richard Zollinger. “Our participation and support from the Foundation over the next five years will provide us with the additional resources we need to implement new learning approaches that will make the college experience more responsive to our student population, helping a greater number of students across the region achieve their dream of earning a degree, diploma or certificate.

Completion by Design aims to build on proven, existing practices already underway at these forward-thinking community colleges which are already working to address the needs of today’s students. They are doing this by focusing on new approaches to areas such as financial aid counseling, course scheduling and advising.

Today, community colleges serve nearly 11 million students, and enrollment has surged as the recession caused many Americans to return for additional training and education. Community colleges also are evolving to serve today’s students, who often are older and work full- or part-time to support families while attending school to obtain a degree or credential.

It’s vital that these students achieve their education goals. A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that, by 2018, 63 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. The report also shows that, without a dramatic change in course, the labor market will be short three million educated workers over the next eight years.

The North Carolina Completion By Design initiative will focus on the entire student experience from intake to completion and will build on the interdisciplinary work and strong connections between the five colleges involved.

“We believe that the today’s students—particularly low-income students—need smarter, affordable postsecondary options that lead to high-quality outcomes,” said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation. “Completion by Design aims to give them that, and we are excited to support the innovative work being conducted by these outstanding colleges.”


About Central Piedmont Community College

Central Piedmont Community College is the largest community college in North Carolina, offering close to 300 degree and certification programs, customized corporate training, market-focused continuing education, and special interest classes. CPCC is academically, financially and geographically accessible to all citizens of Mecklenburg County. In 2002, the National Alliance of Business named CPCC the Community College of the Year for its response to the workforce and technology needs of local employers and job seekers through innovative educational and training strategies.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.