Completion by Design

North Carolina is one of four states selected in 2011 to participate in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Completion by Design initiative. Guilford Technical Community College is leading the initiative, along with Wake Tech CC, Central Piedmont CC, Davidson County CC, Martin CC, and the System Office. The pilot colleges will implement innovative pathways to increase student completion.

Contact Dr. Sharon Morrissey at 919-807-7096 or

The NCCCS Completion by Design policy priorities emerged from the pathway strategies developed by the cadre work teams. The faculty and staff who comprised the work teams identified 15 policy changes, which were subsequently grouped into four categories:  Legislative, K-12 & Higher Education Alignment, State Board of Community Colleges, and College Policy Levers. While all policy levers will be addressed during the implementation phase to support the CBD pathway design strategies, the academic leaders core team and state policy lead identified three policy priorities that have the greatest potential to impact students’ success and colleges’ completion rates over the next three years at the cadre colleges and have the greatest potential for supporting scale-up of CBD completion pathways: 

  1. Revise the State Board of Community Colleges’ student placement and developmental pre-requisite policies: (1) allow research-validated, alternative methods for determining a student’s college readiness instead of relying on a single test score, and (2) allow colleges to enroll students who place near college-ready in college courses with co-requisite developmental or supplemental instruction, instead of requiring the developmental instruction as a pre-requisite.
  2. Revise the NCCCS curriculum standards to facilitate highly structured programs of study at the college level: (1) using the Department of Education CIP codes, cluster similar programs within a standard template, (2) create a common technical core tracks for programs within the same cluster, and (3) provide opportunities for stackable credentials with multiple entry and exit points.
  3. Revise the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina’s16 constituent institutions to develop structured pathways to majors and reduce elective options:  (1) identify the most popular transfer majors and develop structured pathways that better track students into major pathways, (2) ensure that all general education core courses transfer for course credit, (3) ensure that students who complete the AA/AS enter the university on track to complete in the BA/BS in two years, and (4) create statewide policies and procedures to allow students who transfer early to transfer credit back to the community college to fulfill requirements for the associate’s degree.

These policy priorities support the cadre’s strategies to create significantly redesigned and more prescriptive programs of study, reduce the number of students referred to developmental education and accelerate the movement of referred students, and intentionally redesign student service practices and processes related to placement, programs of study, and college transfer.

The CBD State Advisory Board comprises the State Board of Community Colleges’ executive committee members (board chair and vice chair and chairs of program, finance, legislative, policy and accountability committees); a UNC senior administrator; the state superintendent of public instruction; the presidents of the cadre colleges; the cadre executive director; the cadre senior partner; and key representatives from business and industry.

In addition to the State Advisory Board, the Core State Policy Leadership Team, chaired by Dr. Randy Parker and Dr. Scott Ralls, meets quarterly to review planning and implementation progress and to discuss policy and budget items.  The Cadre Colleges Work Teams, comprising faculty and staff teams from the five cadre colleges, meet monthly to plan and implement the completion pathways, and the Academic Leaders Core Team, comprising senior chief academic and student services administrators from the cadre colleges, holds a telephone meeting each month to discuss local implementation issues and state and college policy levers. Initiative

Most Recent Activity Report

April 2014 Activity Report

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 11:44
Decisions: Key Values:

Two webinars were held in January 2014:  “Structured Programs of Study” and “Building Stakeholder Engagement”.  Two webinars were also held in February 2014:  “Accelerating Entry into Programs of Study” and “Front Door Experiences and Advising”.  Recordings of these webinars can be found at

Regional Student Success Learning Institute meetings took place in February 2014 at Davidson County Community College and Pitt Community College.  At these regional meetings, new Completion by Design colleges gathered to receive feedback and technical assistance on their CBD Action Plans.     

The NC Student Success Learning Institute was held in Winston-Salem on April 22-23, 2014.  The institute featured sessions led by national partners.  Rob Johnstone of the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement led sessions titled “Lessons from the Aspen Prize” and “The Economics of Innovation.”  Isaac Rowlett and Susan Shelton of Public Agenda led a session on Stakeholder Engagement, and Gretchen Schmidt of Jobs for the Future led a session about the role of institutional policy in sustaining reform.  Additionally, Ed Smith-Lewis of the Gates Foundation discussed the national importance of the Completion by Design initiative.

Next Steps: Meetings:
Recent Activity Reports Post date
April 2014 Activity Report 2014-05-06 11:44
December 2013 2013-12-19 12:12
October 2013 Activity Report 2013-12-19 12:12
June 2013 Activity Report 2013-06-28 16:44
May 2013 Activity Report 2013-05-31 16:48
April 2013 Activity Report 2013-04-26 16:37
February 2013 Update 2013-03-07 15:16
CbD State Policy Workplan Grant 2013-01-08 13:27
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