MyFutureNC celebrated its third birthday Monday with a conference and lunch in Greensboro. There weren't any big announcements like the one a year ago, when the nonprofit group with bipartisan support announced its goal of having 2 million North Carolina residents between ages 25 and 44 hold college degrees or credentials by 2030.
This year's announcement was a little smaller in scale but still worth mentioning here: There's now an online dashboard!
I usually go easy on my exclamation points, but I dig numbers. This is a big deal, people. A big deal!
The dashboard, developed by Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill, will track North Carolina's progress toward a number of MyFutureNC's educational goals. As of Monday night when I'm typing up this blog post, for instance, 56 percent of N.C. students had scored at least a 17 on the ACT — 14 percentage points short of the 2030 goal — and 59 percent of students who enroll in an N.C. college or university graduate in six years.
The dashboard tracks 18 different indicators, most of them having to do with K-12 or higher education. The dashboard eventually will have report cards with these numbers and more for each county. Guilford's isn't out yet, but the six that are posted include three of the state's largest counties — Mecklenburg, New Hanover and Buncombe.
The dashboard and the report cards have a lot of little numbers. But there's one big number — 2 million — that I want to make sure we're all clear about. This isn't 2 million more people with an associate's or bachelor's degree or what MyFutureNC calls a "high quality credential" — a job-specific certificate or some other post-high school training, usually done at a community college. This is 2 million people total.
As of right now, according to MyFutureNC, about 1.3 million N.C. residents between 25 and 44 have a college degree or post-high school credential. At current rates, that number will grow to 1.6 million by the end of the decade. MyFutureNC wants to add another 400,000 to that total to bring it to an even 2 million. The glass-half-full take, then, is that N.C. will hit 80 percent of its goal if it does nothing. The glass-half-empty take, the one embraced my MyFutureNC and its supporters, is that 80 percent isn't good enough to ensure that North Carolina will have more and better-paying jobs a decade from now. A B-minus might get you into college, but an A will look a whole lot better on your college application.
Leslie Boney, director of the Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State, neatly laid out the work ahead in a N&R editorial over the weekend. His piece mentions the same survey on college dropouts I wrote about last month.
If you're interested in more, here's a video of the entire MyFutureNC event. Ceclia Holden, the organization's new president and CEO, speaks at the 40-minute mark. A panel discussion starts at the 1:01:00 mark. High Point University President Nido Qubein and an HPU student appear at 3:02:00, state community college system President Peter Hans speaks at 3:20:00, and, believe it or not, the N.C. A&T drumline parades through the main ballroom at Grandover at the 3:28.00 mark. Yep, anything's possible.