News: Quick Takes

New community college system president will hit the road

Jimmie Williamson plans visits to all 58 campuses and must deal with implementation of NCGAP

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

The North Carolina Community College System’s new president, James C. “Jimmie” Williamson, says that his first 90 days in office will be filled with homework and field trips as he learns about interests and needs of the NCCCS.

Williamson, who took office on July 1, plans to visit all 58 NCCCS schools, “listening, learning and building relationships” with board members, administrators, and faculty, said NCCCS spokeswoman Linda Weiner.

“Through these meetings and many more, he will be developing and extending his relationships across our system and our state,” said Weiner.

Williamson will take time during his campus tours to assess the challenges facing the community college system, and also will work to build relationships with members of the state legislature, Weiner added.

A 27-year veteran of higher education, Williamson has a lengthy career at community colleges and technical schools. He began as a registrar and dean in South Carolina’s Technical College System before stepping into the role of president — twice — at two different SCTCS institutions. In 2014, he was elected system president, and worked with legislators and private companies to develop more technical training and apprenticeship programs for students across the state.

Williamson unanimously was elected in March as the eighth president of NCCCS. He succeeds former system president Scott Ralls, who was hired in 2008 and vacated the post last year to become president of Northern Virginia Community College. Williamson’s annual salary is set at $285,000, roughly $2,000 less than the salary Ralls received toward the end of his tenure.

During his first year as head of NCCCS, Williamson will join an ongoing discussion with the University of North Carolina system regarding the North Carolina Guaranteed Admissions Program, Weiner said. NCGAP, a plan to help lower-performing students enroll in at UNC schools by first completing two years of classes at community colleges, became law last year has spurred disagreement between the UNC and NCCCS administrations.

Following the passage of NCGAP, state lawmakers instructed UNC and NCCCS to commission a report on the impact and implementation of the program. Upon that report’s release earlier this year, the UNC system Board of Governors — led by UNC President Margaret Spellings — expressed concern over data that predicted problems with the program, including lower enrollment rates at UNC’s Historically Black College and Universities, and lower graduation rates across the university system as a whole.

On the other side of the debate, the State Board of Community Colleges — under the direction of interim system president George Fouts — deemed the report inaccurate, saying it did not take into consideration the system’s most recent efforts to improve transfer rates between community colleges and UNC schools.

State lawmakers responded by delaying the implementation of NCGAP, giving UNC and NCCCS more time to discuss alternatives and to propose a better plan.

When Carolina Journal asked Weiner about Williamson’s opinion of NCGAP, she said the president would have “more thoughts on this as the conversation continues.”

To read more about NCGAP and the NCCCS, click here.