By Richard Sullins |

The new president of the North Carolina Community College System, Dr. Jeff Cox, has reached into Lee County to make his first key appointment as he assembles a new leadership team for the 58-college system.

Dr. Phillip Price, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Central Carolina Community College, has agreed to join Cox’s team as the new vice president and chief financial officer for the system. His first day on the job in Raleigh was July 24.

Price came to CCCC ten years ago and served first as the college’s vice president of administrative services.

Dr. Phillip Price

In announcing Price’s appointment, Cox said “with his strong background in financial management and leadership at the local college level and his great reputation across the state, he is going to be a tremendous asset for our team.”

Price’s new position is often considered the most difficult within the community college system. As CFO, he will be responsible for how its $1.5 billion budget gets spent, from the system’s largest school (Wake Tech in Raleigh) to its smallest (Tri-County Tech in Murphy).

Though the system has legislative liaisons to the state legislature, it will be Price that lawmakers turn to for data that ultimately results in the state budget. He will be the person that the 58 colleges will call when there is an immediate need for funding, be that a new industry needing trained workers quickly or a college needing to help laid off workers just as quickly when an industry suddenly shuts down.

Merritt also chosen

Cox, who served from 2003 to 2005 as an assistant superintendent in the Lee County Schools district, has also selected another member for his team with deep roots in Sanford.

Dr. Brian Merritt, president at McDowell Technical Community College in Marion since 2021, will be moving to Raleigh to become senior vice president and chief academic officer of programs and student services for the system effective September 1.

Merritt served in a variety of positions during his years at CCCC and was vice president of student learning and chief academic officer at the time he left in December 2020 for McDowell Tech. During his time in Sanford, he earned plaudits for his success in securing grant funding and was among the most successful grant writers in the system, with several projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education among the college’s biggest awards received during his tenure.

At the time of his departure from Sanford two and a half years ago, CCCC President Dr. Lisa Chapman spoke about his contributions to the college.

“Dr. Brian Merritt has been one of CCCC’s rock stars for many years,” she said. “His ability to think outside of the box, recognize great talent, establish strong networks and relationships, and get things done is unparalleled.”

Merritt said he’s confident he’s ready for the challenges ahead.

“We know North Carolina recently repeated as the top state in the U.S. for business,” he said. “My top priority will be to leverage the strengths of our team at the System Office and to work closely with our 58 colleges to serve our workforce and help develop talent solutions that serve our state well.”

The talent pipeline between Sanford and Raleigh remains open and continues to work both ways. Chapman worked at CCCC for 27 years, starting as an instructor and working her way to chief academic officer, before leaving in 2014 to take a similar position at the system office for five years. In 2019, she returned to Sanford to assume new duties as the college’s sixth president.