Local News

Short On Funds, Community Colleges Could Wind Up Short On Teachers

Posted July 2, 2003 6:15 a.m. EDT

— One of every six adults in North Carolina is enrolled in a community college program.

Community colleges train most of our firefighters and law officers, and they play a vital role in training workers for new jobs in a rebounding economy.

The question is: How much will the state's budget cut from the classroom?

Enrollment in the state's community colleges has swelled to more than 750,000 students -- a whopping 10-percent increase this year -- with another seven-percent increase expected next year.

But just when enrollment is bulging, the community-college system may have trouble holding onto its most talented teachers.

Nash County Community College trains students for jobs as linemen for the power companies. In Durham, auto-mechanics training prepares students for the future and a good-paying job.

The men and women who prepare students for promising careers are raising the red flag about how they are treated by their employer -- the state of North Carolina.

"We don't do this for money," said Bill Rhoades, a biology instructor at Wake Technical Community College.

Rhoades said the average instructor makes about $35,000 a year.

"We have people from other states who can't afford to interview when they hear what the pay scale is," he said.

Additionally, the pay raise they got was one half of one percent above the $550 one-time bonus for state employees.

According to Community College System President Martin Lancaster, 85 percent of new jobs created this century will require at least a community-college degree. But the system can't help North Carolina significantly change its economy without quality teachers who are paid a decent wage.

"Our faculty and professional staff are growing weary and frustrated," Lancaster said.

The pay scale of community-college teachers ranks 47th in the nation. In the legislature, a proposal to boost salaries to the national average in five years never made it past committee.