Janet N. Spriggs, President, Forsyth Technical Community College

Dr. Janet N. Spriggs, the seventh President of Forsyth Technical Community College since January 1, 2019, is dedicated to transforming lives through education. With nearly three decades of experience in the North Carolina Community College System, she has held significant roles, including Chief Operating Officer at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Carteret Community College. Dr. Spriggs is a first-generation, low-income, former community college student who profoundly understands the power of education. Her leadership is recognized nationally, having been selected twice as an Aspen Presidential Fellow. She holds a doctorate in higher education administration from Northeastern University, a master’s from Nova Southeastern University, and a bachelor’s from Roger Williams University. Committed to student success and equitable economic mobility, Dr. Spriggs serves on various boards, including as Vice President for Membership for the American Association of Women in Community Colleges, Belk Center Advisory Board at NC State University, and the Board for Greater Winston-Salem, Inc. She advocates for community colleges as engines for breaking the cycle of poverty and advancing workforce development.


Since the early 20th century, America’s two-year colleges have expanded access to higher education, serving as gateways to postsecondary degrees for low-income and traditionally excluded students. However, simply opening doors to education does not guarantee success, as many students face barriers such as financial constraints, family obligations, mental health challenges, and lack of preparedness.

While access is necessary, success is more critical. Over time, community colleges shifted from simply prioritizing enrolling students to a model that addressed access and success. This new paradigm focused community college leaders on mitigating barriers inside and outside the classroom, creating a national imperative for comprehensive and multifaceted approaches to help more students complete their degrees. Today, community college programs address the needs of very diverse student populations through holistic support services, tailored academic pathways, and flexible learning options

Over the past decade, we have realized another shift in our unique model for two-year postsecondary institutions that extends our work beyond graduation day. Coined “Community College 3.0” by Josh Wyner, Executive Director for the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, this work accepts the imperative for community colleges to prepare our students for family-sustaining wage careers, ensuring their education translates into meaningful, stable, and sustainable employment.

Community colleges are not just educational institutions but also powerful drivers of workforce and economic development. In an era that increasingly scrutinizes the value of higher education, community colleges have a unique opportunity to embrace the Community College 3.0 framework to restore faith in higher education. Here are four key opportunities for how institutions can embrace Community College 3.0 to support workforce development and cultivate trust.

  1. Build a Shared Vision and a Strategic Roadmap for Success. A key component of the work within the Community College 3.0 framework is ensuring that all college stakeholders—administrators, faculty, and staff—embrace a shared vision for where the institution is headed. Working together to create a collective vision is essential, and once the vision is adopted, everyone owns it as the key to their individual and the colleges’ collective success. The vision becomes the foundation for a strategic plan that serves as a roadmap for achieving the shared vision. Every stakeholder must understand their vital role in supporting student success, and this unified approach not only enhances the educational experience for students but also strengthens the institution’s ability to adapt to the changing demands of the workforce and economic landscape. Through continuous professional development, inclusive decision-making processes, and clear communication of goals, institutions can create collective ownership and empower their communities to work together to equitably apply their mission to all students, regardless of their background or circumstances.
  2. Holistic Supports for Student Success. Success is not solely determined by academic achievement. Supporting the whole student inside and outside the classroom is crucial. A comprehensive, holistic support initiative can provide a network of resources, including mental health services, housing and food insecurity assistance, emergency grants, childcare support services, a student-parent resource center, women’s centers, and minority male success initiatives. Such initiatives embody a commitment to removing the barriers that life can present, which often impede academic success. These holistic support services complement extensive educational offerings, such as tutoring and learning resource centers. In an era where many students and their families question postsecondary education’s value and return on investment, these services are particularly crucial. Valuing and supporting students by demonstrating a genuine commitment to holistic student well-being and success fosters a sense of belonging and engagement. This approach helps build trust inside and outside the classroom, reinforcing the value of a community college education.
  3. Human-Centered Design. Prioritizing an equitable, human-centered design approach in all aspects of work ensures that the voices of the students served are at the forefront of designing systems and programs. Collaborations with organizations focused on helping institutions cultivate human-centric design principles can exemplify the institution’s commitment. These principles must extend across the institution, influencing the college’s student success reform efforts inside and outside of the classroom. Some examples include programs focused on adult learner re-engagement, shorter terms program delivery models, and flexible/multi-modal courses that allow students the choice and flexibility of attending classes in person or virtually, either synchronously or asynchronously. Through focus groups and other participatory methods of centering student voices in the design process, institutions can actively involve students in shaping the systems and processes that affect their educational journeys, and subsequently create more successful educational pathways, building trust by demonstrating how they value those they serve.
  4. Partnerships. Education alone cannot create economic mobility and a sustainable workforce. To make a lasting impact, institutions must build strong partnerships with public and private entities, including community leaders, workforce and economic developers, businesses, industries, and non-profits. These partnerships are integral to focusing on post-graduation outcomes. By collaborating with local industries to align programs with the skills they need, institutions can ensure that graduates are workforce-ready. Work-based learning opportunities, such as apprenticeship programs that combine classroom instruction with hands-on experience, create a win for students to gain invaluable hands-on experience while being paid and a win for businesses needing labor to support growing workforce gaps. Workforce development hubs, in collaboration with local workforce development boards, non-profit organizations, and school systems, can serve as coordination points to provide resources for job seekers and connect employers with potential employees. These collective efforts enhance program effectiveness and strengthen the local workforce and economy, demonstrating the power of collaboration in achieving meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

By building a shared vision, providing holistic support, embracing human-centered design, and forging strong partnerships, community colleges are not only enhancing student success but also restoring faith in higher education and providing students from diverse backgrounds with equitable access to education, the support they need to succeed, and opportunities to secure meaningful, family-sustaining careers post-graduation. As community colleges continue to adapt and innovate, they remain committed to empowering lives and transforming communities, proving that they are essential drivers of workforce development and economic mobility.

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