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The Belk Center Receives Additional $4.3 Million in Funding to Further Support North Carolina Community Colleges and Foster Student Success

The Belk Center for Community College Research and Leadership, which is part of North Carolina State University’s College of Education, recently received two grants, totaling $4.3 million, aimed at serving North Carolina’s community colleges – particularly in rural parts of the state – in an effort to foster student success.

One grant, provided by The John M. Belk Endowment (JMBE), will allow the Belk Center, in partnership with the North Carolina Student Success Center and Achieving the Dream, to develop Teaching & Learning Hubs at North Carolina community colleges in an effort to establish a statewide professional learning program.

“These hubs, to be established in multiple locations across the state, will work in complement to individual colleges’ teaching and learning centers and professional development educators to support scalable and sustainable professional learning activities for full-time and adjunct faculty that will impact thousands of North Carolina students for years to come,” said Audrey J. Jaeger, Ph.D., executive director of the Belk Center and Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development at NC State’s College of Education. “This generous funding from the John M. Belk Endowment will allow us to continue our work to support faculty at North Carolina’s community colleges by helping them learn about, adopt, test and scale the evidence-based strategies that have increased equitable student success outcomes across the nation, while also supporting executive leaders in driving their teaching and learning mission.”

As part of the Teaching & Learning Hubs, the Belk Center has engaged the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program (Aspen) – a national authority on community college leadership development. Aspen will work with the Belk Center to design a series of virtual and in-person workshops on how North Carolina’s community college presidents can develop and execute a comprehensive strategy for enhancing teaching and learning excellence.

“It is an honor and a privilege for JMBE to partner and invest in statewide professional development programs for North Carolina’s community college faculty,” says MC Belk Pilon, president and board chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. “Supporting innovative efforts to leverage evidence-based strategies such as the Teaching and Learning Hubs is a key aspect of the Endowment’s aim to promote ongoing systemic change to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs.”

Additionally, in an effort to improve student outcomes and advance racial equity in educational systems, the Belk Center received a grant from the Ascendium Education Group to launch a three-year institutional capacity building project. The project will engage executive leadership in institutional transformation prioritizing learner success.

As part of the Ascendium grant work, the Belk Center will focus on developing and supporting executive leaders within the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) – empowering them to be change agents in their institutions. The project aims to remove systemic barriers and close gaps in completion rates for students from low-income backgrounds and those living in rural communities.

NCCCS data reveals that historically underserved groups complete college at rates between six to 18 percent lower than their white counterparts. Economic challenges in rural parts of the state – where many of these students reside – compound educational inequities. Importantly, North Carolina is one of a few states where students from rural communities are more racially diverse compared to most rural areas in the country.

“Since eliminating barriers requires identifying problems and implementing effective, learner-centered solutions, our work will aim at supporting leadership capacity with ongoing resources and partnerships, as well as evaluating learner success reforms,” explains Jaeger. “Thanks to the support of Ascendium Education Group, the Belk Center can support presidents in their efforts to improve equitable student outcomes in North Carolina’s Community College System.”

For more information about the Belk Center’s programs and research, please visit

About the Belk Center: The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research, at North Carolina State University, develops and sustains exceptional community college leaders who are committed to advancing equitable college access and student success, the social and economic mobility of their colleges’ students, and the economic competitiveness of their regions. The Center provides professional development and research related to current and emerging student success opportunities and challenges facing community college leaders and policymakers in North Carolina and the nation. For more information, please visit

About the John M. Belk Endowment: Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the John M. Belk Endowment is a private family foundation committed to transforming postsecondary educational opportunities to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs. Its mission is aligned with the vision of its founder, the late John M. Belk who served four terms of mayor of Charlotte and was CEO of the department store company Belk, Inc. He created the John M. Belk Endowment in 1995 to fund a national merit scholarship program for his beloved alma mater, Davidson College. Now led by Mr. Belk’s daughter, MC Belk Pilon, the John M. Belk Endowment staff and board continue to partner with innovative, results-oriented programs in North Carolina to further Mr. Belk’s values, legacy, and focus on the value of education as a means to personal fulfillment and community vitality. For more information, please visit

About Ascendium Education Group: Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit