SANFORD - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper visited Central Carolina Community College on Wednesday, April 12, to discuss his NC GROW scholarship for free community college that he proposed in his budget and how to prepare North Carolinians for high-paying jobs. The governor's visit is the latest in a series of visits to community colleges across the state that began earlier this year.
His stop at CCCC's Lee Main Campus began at a roundtable discussion with college officials, faculty, and students before continuing with a tour of several career-based academic programs.
Cooper has long been an education advocate and has promoted a proposal that would provide free community college tuition for students meeting certain academic criteria. While his NC GROW scholarship proposal came up in Sanford, other topics were also discussed.
The 20-minute roundtable, which included CCCC President Dr. T. Eston Marchant, touched on a wide range of topics -- beginning with job training.
"The first question I get when I meet with corporate leaders is not, 'What is your corporate tax rate?'" Cooper told the college officials. "The question I get is, 'Do you have a skilled workforce?' You are the key to that.
"Now, I want to hear from you."
Topics included the need to enhance faculty recruitment and compensation to make community colleges more attractive to the best teachers. Bianka Stumpf, CCCC's social sciences lead instructor, said that is a particular concern when much of the policy debates center on K-12 education and state universities.
"We've got to get the business community telling the legislators that we already have the tax cuts," Cooper said. "Now we've got to invest in education."
The governor also heard from two students -- Carson Rosser in nursing and Nickolas Jorgenson in laser and photonics -- about their college experiences.
Jorgenson said he was living in Arizona when he quit his job and sold his car to cross the country and study at CCCC, which offers the only laser and photonics program among North Carolina community colleges. Though he also holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, Jorgenson went in a new direction to take advantage of job prospects he described as "out of this world."
After the 20-minute roundtable concluded, Cooper left for a brief campus tour, including college leaders and media. Along the way, he stopped for a robotic welding demonstration and a brief look at the college's computer-integrated machining facility.
But it wasn't all business.
While crossing campus, Cooper visited with some veterinary medical technology students outside with dogs. Cooper, who created an animal welfare hotline during his tenure as attorney general and maintains First Pets of North Carolina, a Facebook page for his own family's pets, didn't miss the opportunity.
After shaking hands with the VMT students and faculty/staff, he made a second pass down the line, holding each of the animals and pausing for photos.
That fact didn't escape Marchant. "For those of you who were not on the tour, he shook hands with people in welding," Marchant told a public gathering later. "He shook hands with the people in machining. But he hugged the puppy dogs."
Though it was a quick visit, about an hour from start to finish, Cooper said he was impressed with what he saw in Sanford and that community colleges like CCCC were essential to how he wants to shape the state.
Cooper said that what he wants out of being governor is to make sure that North Carolina's people are better educated, that they are healthier and that they have more money in their pockets.
Central Carolina Community College President Dr. T. Eston Marchant (left) greets North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper upon his arrival to the CCCC Lee Main Campus on Wednesday, April 12.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper visits with Central Carolina Community College faculty, staff, and students on Wednesday, April 12, at the CCCC Lee Main Campus.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper visits Central Carolina Community College's computer-integrated machinery facility on Wednesday, April 12, at the CCCC Lee Main Campus.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper holds a dog from Central Carolina Community College's Veterinary Medical Technology program on Wednesday, April 12, at the CCCC Lee Main Campus.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (holding shield) gets an up-close view of a robotic welding demonstration on Wednesday, April 12, at the Central Carolina Community College Lee Main Campus.