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RCC receives visit from EdNC and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC

As part of their “Extra Miles” listening tour, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, leaders in the healthcare industry, paid a visit to Robeson Community College. Blue Cross NC is traveling to across North Carolina to visit education anchors and healthcare systems to get a better understanding of the barriers that exist and the challenges that many are facing in communities. It is the organizations desire to meet the people working to address those needs.

Blue Cross NC was joined by EdNC’s Nation Hahn, who is the director of growth for the news organization dedicated to stories covering education in North Carolina.

Leaders from the organization were greeted to RCC with demonstrations from select programs such as Mechatronics, Barbering, and Massage Therapy. Many took advantage of chair massages from the massage program, which were being provided by students enrolled in the program.

Executives also had an opportunity to sample some local flavors of Robeson County courtesy of the RCC Culinary Department. Items included pickled okra, collard wraps, collard chips, cornbread chips, glazed doughnuts and pepper jelly.

One of the questions asked during the meeting was how COVID has impacted our students and our college as a whole.

“Some of our students were not able to pivot to online instruction,” said Dr. Patrena Benton Elliott, vice president of instruction and student support services at Robeson Community College. “Some were able to do online packets and we even went as far as delivering packets to students who did not have access.”

Broadband, or lack thereof, was mentioned as one of the major hurdles that impacted students during the shutdown.

“The struggle that we dealt with was trying to get an environment that not only the instructors would gravitate to, but that the students could use,” said Dustin Long, vice president of information technology. “In this rural area we have a lot of issues with the people who do not have broadband access or access to the internet… but even if you have access to the internet, how many people have the capability to do some of the industrial work that we do in classrooms where you are building designs or how many people are going to be able to do the gaming with resources that they have at home.”

“Those resources are a big need,” said Long, referring to the ability for a student to succeed in an online environment.  

“What we were fortunate to be able to do, is that we have a virtual desktop technology that allows students, whether it is with their phone, their iPad or their machine at home, to access the resources they need. It does not require very high-speed internet, so even if we have to pivot back to online instruction again, students will be able to do work from home even if their device is 10 years old.”

Despite the shift to online learning during the height of the pandemic, enrollment at RCC has remained steady and some divisions even saw an increase.

“COVID was really just another obstacle that you have to go around or go over,” said Steven Hunt, vice president of workforce development, continuing education, and institutional services at RCC. “We actually finished 6th in the state out of 58 community colleges on the continuing education side… There was only one other rural college that generated more FTE than we did, so we were competing with the larger schools like Central Piedmont and Wake Tech.”

President Singler also told the organization that during that time the college offered many classes to help parents of school-aged children who needed assistance navigating online learning with the Public School of Robeson County.

“We did this as a community service,” said Singler. “We did not generate any FTE or charge for those classes, we just wanted to help as much as we could.”


Francesca D. Gary, Senior Vice President, Government Markets for BCBS, along with other executives from the organization, takes a selfie with EdNC’s Nation Hahn with the Workforce Development Building at Robeson Community College in the background.