Latinx student population at CCCC Chatham County increases 33%

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Enrollment of Hispanic/Latinx students at Central Carolina Community College is up one third this year, while overall student enrollment has dropped 9% — helping to give the college North Carolina’s third-highest Latinx community college student population.

Mark Hall, the provost for CCCC’s Chatham campus, said Latinx enrollment increased 33%.

“We had about 30% enrollment (of Latinx students),” Hall said. “But this past 2019-2020 year, it went up to 40% of our enrollment in Chatham County in particular.”

Jairo McMican, CCCC’s dean of student learning, told the News + Record this shift was due to a growing Latinx community in the county and an increased interest in the Chatham County Promise program.

“Chatham County is growing in general ... which has led to growth in our CCP population, which is our dual enrollment,” McMican said. “So students, while they’re in high school, are taking more and more advantage. They take more and more opportunity to take these classes at the community college, and to get their foot in the door, to get started with us.”

This past August, data from national advocacy group Excelencia in Education found that nine colleges in North Carolina are “emerging” Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) — including Central Carolina Community College.

The community college, which has campuses in Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties, has a combined Latinx student population of 18.3% — the third-highest Latinx population in the state, according to the data, trailing James Sprunt Community College and Sampson Community College, respectively.

For this past fall semester, Hall said the Chatham campus had been flexible and has made efforts to be accessible for its Latinx students.

“We’ve provided a lot of laptops to students,” he said. “We developed a laptop checkout program. As long as you are enrolled, you get to keep the laptop. That actually helped out a lot of students, especially in Chatham County where they don’t necessarily have the devices.”

The campus has also provided WiFi hotspots and has increased their WiFi range across its campuses.

“So while transportation is still an issue, we upgraded our WiFi on the main campus in Pittsboro, the main campus in Sanford and the main campus in Lillington, so that WiFi is all over, and not just in the buildings,” he said. “That provides people the opportunity to come to campus and have the high speed internet … It projects out into the parking lot people don’t have to come in and they can remain safe.”

And as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state, Hall said CCCC is preparing to make changes to modes of instruction for the spring.

“In the spring, we’re going to start with more online content with the hope and anticipation of things getting better as we move toward summer,” he said.

Moving more toward in-person instruction is vital to the type of training CCCC does, he said.

Oscar Hernandez, the Coordinator of ESL Career Pathways, College and Career Readiness at CCCC’s West Harnett Center in Sanford, said students should check the website for updates for potential changes for the spring semester.

“We are keeping the students informed by going to our website,” he said. “They can see any changes to our programs next semester. Updates are being posted there, as well as COVID resources and community resources.”

Intern Olivia Rojas can be reached at olivia@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @oliviamrojas.

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