Community Colleges to Examine “Critical Needs”

Members of the State Board of Community Colleges met today to begin developing a proposal for financing capital needs at the state’s community college campuses. The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) announced last Friday that they would partner with UNC to create a funding package that would address both systems’ capital needs.

At today’s meeting, Dr. Kent Caruthers, senior partner with MGT of America, a consulting firm helping NCCCS, advised board members on preparing a budget to submit to the Legislative Appropriations Committee on Education. Last week, N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry (NCCBI) encouraged NCCCS to partner with UNC to develop a strategy for short-term and long-term capital funding needs. Community college officials project that by 2008 student enrollment will grow by 43,000 at North Carolina’s community colleges. Audrey Bailey, spokeswoman for the community colleges, says that figure does not include the large number of students who take short-term training through occupational extension courses.

It may also discount the predicted growth in on-line and distance learning. UNC-system Vice President of Planning Judith Pulley estimates that 7,000 students will be involved in distance learning by 2008. “Resources are already strained at many of our campuses,” said NCCCS President Martin Lancaster, echoing the sentiments of many leaders in higher education in North Carolina. (On Friday, the UNC Board of Governors approved UNC President Molly Broad’s proposal to raise tuition to help pay for new building construction.) “We look forward to working with the university to create a proposal that will prove favorable before the General Assembly.”

Federal Regulations Help Push Up College Cost

An estimated 12.5 cents out of every $1 increase in tuition goes to pay for compliance with federal regulations, according to William Troutt, chairman of the National Committee on the Cost of Higher Education. Universities are also said to be engaged in an academic “arms race” to get better ratings by hiring more prestigious professors or funding new programs or better high-tech facilities. “As the stock market goes up and endowments go up, tuition goes up, too,” Senator Fred Thompson, Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, told the Washington Times during the committee’s two-day hearing on the issue. Tuition increased about 50 percent over the last decade – compared to the current inflation rate of 3 percent – and is expected to exceed inflation by one to two percent over the next decade.