BTC REPORTS: Developmental Education in North Carolina: Building the Skills to Complete Post-Secondary Training and Succeed at Work

By Alexandra Forter Sirota
BTC Director
June 2011
Executive Summary
  • Developmental education at community colleges provides an opportunity for students to gain skills they need for successful completion of educational training and job placement. Developmental education is offered primarily through the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) to nearly 16,000 first-time credential seeking students who require further preparation in math, reading and writing before enrolling in college-level coursework.
  • Developmental education, because of the time and resources it requires from students, has the potential to reduce post-secondary completion rates; a key outcome to achieve increased earnings and greater protection against unemployment.
  • A quarter of North Carolina’s developmental education student body is 25 years or older, and nearly half are low-income. The combination of academic and financial barriers, along with the greater likelihood of family demands for students who are low-income and older, makes the stakes high for completing developmental education quickly and effectively.
  • Four evidence-based policy directions should be considered to improve the delivery of developmental education. These broad policy areas each have as their goal reducing the time required to move through developmental education requirements, engaging students in their broader educational and career goals in an ongoing way, ensuring that the financial costs are not a deterrent to student success, and investing in institutional innovation and performance to support student success.
  • Adult workers who enroll in skills training and post-secondary education must be considered in the design and implementation of developmental education policies. Their success in attaining credentials or degrees will be critical to their ability to earn family-sustaining wages and support North Carolina’s strong economy in the future. 
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