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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

CFCC President Jim Morton presents 2022 review to trustees

Trustees listening to Morton's presentation on January 19, 2023
Megan McDeavitt
Trustees listening to Morton's presentation on January 19, 2023

At Thursday night’s Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees meeting, President Jim Morton gave a lengthy presentation on the college’s accomplishments over the last five years since he’s been in charge. Some of these were increasing enrollment numbers, upping state funding through course credits called full-time equivalency (FTE), and building improvements on campus.

After his presentation, Morton received a standing ovation from those in attendance, including the trustees. Board chair Bill Cherry then announced that Morton had been recommended for the state community college system's president of the year.

He was nominated by Pamlico Community College President Jim Ross and recommended by Scott Satterfield of Wilmington Business Development, Sabrina Terry of CFCC’s Student Services, Jimmy Tate of Mt. Calvary Leadership Development, Steve Hill, former superintendent of Pender County Schools, and John Gizdic of Novant Health.

Trustee Paula Sewell said to Morton, “there’s a lot to be proud of.”

Near the close of the meeting, Trustee Ray Funderburk asked whether the board should be looking into a third-party climate survey for students and staff for Morton’s annual review later this spring.

Morton responded, “didn’t we already do that a year ago?”

Funderburk said it would be good to start the process now, so they could have the results when it’s time for his review, but Cherry jumped in to say that the trustees already fill out a survey on the president each year.

This third-party survey, which would encompass more than just the president’s performance, has been a point of contention since January 2020 when WECT first reported allegations of a toxic work environment. Following that, in September 2021, the results of a faculty survey were suppressed by the college, then in March 2022, CFCC conducted its own survey of all staff.

The meeting ended without any discussion of the survey.

Additionally, before Morton started his presentation, Cherry said that trustees should save their questions for the end — and that they needed to be related to Morton's slides. He said that any additional questions should be sent to him or Michelle Lee, the board liaison, after the meeting.

Increase in faculty salaries?

Faculty Association President Dr. Eric Brandon said he’s not running to represent the faculty again. The association will elect a new president at the end of the spring semester.

However, Brandon used his presentation time to reiterate the need for faculty salary increases. He has previously advocated for an increase of about 10% to 20%.

“If we don’t [do this], you’re going to have increasing problems with both recruitment and retention,” Brandon said.

At the September 2022 meeting, trustees Bill Rivenbark and Jonathan Barfield, who are also county commissioners, said they were looking to the legislature to increase these salaries, not necessarily the county commission.

Fast forward to January’s meeting, they were singing the same tune. Rivenbark mentioned that Senator Michael Lee is going to be in charge of appropriations at the state level. Earlier this month, Senate leader Phil Berger named Lee as co-chair of both the Appropriations/Base Budget and Education/Higher Education committees.

“That’s not going to hurt anything,” he said.

Further, Barfield asked if Morton has sent a lobbying delegation to Raleigh. Morton responded that’s mainly the job of the state community college system, but said he’d like that lobbying to be stronger — and that he does make trips to Raleigh to advocate on behalf of staff for increased salaries.

Some members of the administration have received considerable compensation bumps recently. Morton himself has received two 10% raises over the last two years. Additionally, Vice President of Marketing and Communications Sonya Johnson has jumped from making $100,008 in August 2020 to $150,924 in July 2022. While she did undergo a title change during this time — which often comes with increased compensation — she also received a 16% salary increase over the past year in the same position.

And to further support the work of Johnson, CFCC hired a new director of media relations, Christina Hallingse, in October 2022. She makes $85,008. She also received a full-time employee bonus of $1,500 on November 30.

Enrollment and FTE

The college’s spring enrollment numbers, not yet verified by the system office, have increased since last spring by about 4%, according to Morton.

The fall 2022 numbers were flat, so Morton said several college employees volunteered to make “thousands of phone calls to students who had registered but hadn’t enrolled yet — and those efforts paid off,” in terms of increasing student numbers for this semester.

During Morton's presentation, Trustee Bruce Shell referenced the college’s increase in continuing education (CE) FTE. CE is different from curriculum (CU) FTE.

Related: Part II: CFCC dissolved its ‘full-time equivalency’ department. What does that mean?

This compares CFCC with the other 58 colleges in the system.
This compares CFCC with the other 58 colleges in the system.

Shell put to Morton, that this gain of about 23% [CE] from the 2018-2019 school year to that of the 2021-2022 school year, “was that a bit of a gamble because you were getting less money for those students?”

Morton responded, “Higher FTEs like electrical line workers are going to enhance our income. [...]I’m trying to follow your question, I don’t see it as a gamble, because we’re looking at what the industry is looking for and we’re providing it.”

Shell said, “So if you have just a really small amount of [students] in a program, you’re going to lose a lot of money, but I remember when we shifted to the continuing education side, for example, for truck drivers, you were able to get a lot more people into the program, but they were paying less to the community college, but when you increased the volume, it paid for itself.”

Related: Two high-profile CFCC resignees discuss their reasons for leaving (Note: this article mentions the push to increase enrollment figures and the focus on FTE).

Morton said that the tuition the student pays goes to the state, and “they calculate that into an FTE that pays the colleges [...] If you increase the number of students for training, the FTE increases overall, that's how they fund the colleges.

Morton said the college is moving away from Tier 3 offerings.
Morton said the college is moving away from Tier 3 offerings.

Morton mainly compared CFCC against the average of all 58 community colleges, but there are large differences between colleges like Wake Technical in Raleigh, which serves about 61,000 students in a year, and ones like Pamlico, which has around 1,300 students. CFCC, for the 2021-2022 school year, had about 22,600.

CFCC is the fifth largest college in terms of enrollment in the state. The ones ahead are located in Raleigh, Charlotte (Central Piedmont), Fayetteville, and Jamestown (Guilford), which is close to both High Point and Greensboro.

CFCC has the 5th largest enrollment in the state community college system.
CFCC has the 5th largest enrollment in the state community college system.

And colleges that are typically close to larger urban centers are doing better in terms of enrollment in comparison to rural ones, according to AJ Jaeger, executive director of NC State University’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership.

Bank of America Building

At one point during the meeting, Barfield asked if Morton had a visionfor the $11.8 million county purchase of the former Bank of America building in downtown Wilmington. The county has said it will require an additional $14.8 million to renovate it for the nursing and allied health programs.

Morton responded that about 50% of the building is still leased out to other parties, but that he has plans and projections for when those leases roll off, but didn’t elaborate further.

He did say that he anticipates an additional 20,000 square feet for this future expansion.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR