Bonds: The Answer to UNC Construction Costs?

Bonds: The Answer to UNC’s Construction Cost?

Bonds may not be the best answer to UNC’s rising construction cost, according to a recent analysis by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. The report comes in the wake of a proposal by the UNC Board of Governors to meet the university’s construction needs by allowing the UNC-system to sell “special obligation” bonds and the state to issue “limited obligation” bonds. The proposal is scheduled to reach the General Assembly within weeks.

George Leef, Vice President of the John Locke Foundation and Director of the Pope Center, criticized the proposal for not being cost efficient and requiring no voter approval.

“The 1999-2001 Budget Request of the university system already contains more than $1.24 billion for capital improvements,” Leef said. “At least another $100 million could be had by diverting money targeted for questionable spending plans like a 12% salary increase for faculty members, a ‘Strategic Initiatives Reserve,’ and state matching funds to create endowed professorships.” Leef also criticized part of the proposal that slates $1.6 billion of the $6.9 billion in borrowed money for expected enrollment increases.

“The US Department of Labor has forecast that the strongest job growth in the next decade will be in jobs that do not require a college degree,” Leef said. Also, “economists… have recently shown that a large number of college graduates are now taking traditionally “high school jobs.” Such trends may lead to a decrease in the percentage of students going to college, he said.

According to a recent report prepared by Eva Klein & Associates, a consultant for the UNC Board of Governors, North Carolina’s campuses could use some $3 billion worth of repairs. This report is part of the reason State Treasurer Harlan Boyles proposed the new system of issuing bonds. But the new system may not be the best answer to the universities alleged construction crises, says Leef.

“If we permit university funding through bonds requiring neither voter nor legislative approval, we will probably see more and more use of this ‘financial tool'” to raise money – a tool which weakens accountability for university spending.

More on the bond issue in the June-July issue of Clarion, the Pope Center’s journal on higher education.

N.C. Universities Recognized Nationally

Two N.C. universities, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill were recently recognized by the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative student-focus foundation based Herndon, VA. In “Comedy and Tragedy,” YAF’s annual survey of college course descriptions, a number of courses at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill are cited as being indicative of the state of higher education today.

The Duke courses highlighted were: Working Class in the United States (History 165), Marxism and Society (Cultural Anthropology 139), Perspectives in Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Studies (English 101D), Race, Class, and Gender in Modern British History (History 209s), and Perspectives in Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Studies (Studies in Sexuality 115D).

The UNC-CH courses highlighted were: Black Nationalism in the United States (Afro-American Studies 69), Magic, Ritual, and Belief (Anthropology 123), Environment Advocacy (Communications Studies 57), and Politics of Sexuality (Political Science 73).