Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring North Carolina Community College System President Dr. Jeff Cox

Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring North Carolina Community College System President Dr. Jeff Cox

August 10, 2023

Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Dr. Jeff Cox, the President of the North Carolina Community College System, via Zoom and filmed an episode of Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.

Dr. Cox became the President of the North Carolina Community College System in June 2023.

North Carolina community colleges provide education, training, and support services for new, expanding, and existing business and industry in all 100 North Carolina counties through a network of 58 community colleges.

Dr. Cox brings three decades of education experience to the North Carolina Community College System and has served from 2022-2023 as head of the North Carolina Community College Presidents’ Association. He led Wilkes Community College from 2014 to 2023 and formerly led Alleghany County Schools as superintendent from 2005 to 2014.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Dr. Cox is the first North Carolina Community College president with more than 30 years in the educational pipeline. He spent his first 20 years in K-12 education as a high school teacher, an elementary school assistant principal, an elementary school principal, an assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction, and as a superintendent. Dr. Cox most recently served as a community college president. He shared that throughout the years he has seen the challenges and opportunities in the education pipeline. Dr. Cox also explained that his experiences working with Boards, legislators and other politicians, business and industry, and philanthropy have helped prepare him for this position.

Dr. Cox explained that the workforce pipeline begins when students enter the K-12 system. They find themselves looking for the answers of what to do after high school or if they even want to finish high school. He shared that some communities in North Carolina have more than half of their high school students not pursuing postsecondary credentials or degrees. Dr. Cox shared that the System Office’s job is to help students clearly understand their options for postsecondary education. He shared that he will make a significant push to help young people understand the affordability, access, and how they can get a good career after getting postsecondary education.

While North Carolina community colleges are affordable, some students still find the tuition and fees out of reach. Dr. Cox explained that Pell grants are available to help fill that gap. He also mentioned that many colleges have the support for wraparound services needed as well as tuition and fees. One example of such a funding source is the Golden LEAF Scholarship. The Golden LEAF Scholarships are available for students from qualifying counties to help pay for tuition, fees and other costs to attend college. Students can apply for the Golden LEAF Scholarship at each participating community college. Click here to learn more about the scholarship and then visit your community college financial aid office for an application.

Dr. Cox also mentioned that the key to success for community colleges is working directly with business and industry on the skills needed to fill available positions. He shared examples of short-term training initiatives that turned into quality jobs. Dr. Cox emphasized that colleges that have strong partnerships with their employers help keep the pipeline going to fill jobs now and into the future.

Recent announcements of thousands of jobs coming to regions, has opened the doors to opportunities for community colleges to collaborate on training. Dr. Cox said that he will be working on the financial model for funding community colleges. He said that as the North Carolina Community College System reaches its 60th anniversary this year, it gives the System the opportunity to review its past funding model, analyze the current challenges and anticipate what the next 60 years may look like. Dr. Cox will take the challenge to create a System that fosters better regional collaboration.

For more information on the North Carolina Community College System, visit

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