Rowan-Cabarrus Community College plans larger role in face of state cuts

Leaders of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College are seeking to elevate its image and role in the region and assert itself as an economic and cultural resource – all while state support for the college declines.

Those efforts have been the focus as RCCC leaders worked to develop a three-year strategic plan.

“The reality is that we are not immune to the tough economic times,” said RCCC President Carol Spalding. “Our resources from the state have continued to decline year after year.

“Like many public organizations, we are looking elsewhere and developing a case for support to seek private and philanthropic resources.”

The strategic planning process, which began last year, has brought college faculty and staff together with community leaders to brainstorm how to improve the college and community over the next few years.

The 2015-18 strategic plan is expected to go before the college board of trustees for approval in December.

Community members ranging from business leaders to foundation directors also discussed economic, cultural, environmental and social challenges that affect the region’s educational future.

“Community leaders have made it clear that they want Rowan-Cabarrus to assert itself as the economic and cultural resource that it is for our region,” said Cyndie Mynatt, vice chairwoman of the college’s board of trustees. “The real key is ensuring that the college has the needed public and private resources to do that.”

Spalding said, “It was gratifying to hear from community leaders that the college not only has solid support, but also the ability to help lead the Rowan and Cabarrus region to greater economic security through education.”

Planning sessions have led to an emphasis on advanced manufacturing and technology, health care, information technology and science, technology, engineering and math education.

A consistent theme between trustees and industry has been the desire for the college to become more vibrant in, and contribute to, the community, and to elevate its role in the region, college leaders said.

Anthony Rossi, Student Government Association president, said, “I do feel like students are positive about the future direction of the college.”

“One area we are getting really involved with is civic engagement. We have several get-out-the-vote kinds of initiatives coming up, and we are hoping to reach out into the community on issues that are important to us as students,” said Rossi.

“One of those is the $9 million bond referendum on the Nov. 4 Cabarrus County ballot to build an Advanced Technology Center (at RCCC’s south campus in Kannapolis). This is an important part of the college’s future. The SGA has already announced plans to support this.”

This fall, Spalding said, she will start a blog on the college’s website to update the community, students, faculty and staff on various efforts at Rowan-Cabarrus. The strategic plan will be one of her first topics.

“I appreciate our community partners who contributed their time in planning and hope they will feel ownership in the new strategic plan,” Spalding said. “We believe education is the best investment someone can make.

“A more educated region will result in a stronger, more vibrant region.”