The General Assembly’s Long Higher-Ed Reach

A number of significant bills have made “crossover” in North Carolina's current legislative session.

Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly marked a special occasion: crossover. May 4, the official “crossover deadline,” was the last day on which bills could pass out of the chamber in which they were introduced and move forward for consideration in the opposite chamber.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Most finance and appropriations bills are exempt, as are any bills dealing with legislative or gubernatorial appointments, elections, redistricting, or Constitutional amendments.

Here are the higher-education bills that made crossover:


House Bill 96, the North Carolina Reclaiming College Education on America’s Constitutional Heritage Act (NC REACH Act), would require a three-credit course in American history or American government. This requirement would apply to all students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a UNC-System institution or an associate’s degree at an N.C. community college. The course would have to provide a general overview of American history and government. Further requirements consist of required readings of specified documents, which include but are not limited to the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Gettysburg Address.

The Martin Center has written about this bill here.

House Bill 149 would transfer the power of electing the community college system president to the General Assembly.HB 97 In-State Tuition Pilot Program

This bill’s proposal is to allow the State Board of Community Colleges to create and implement a pilot program offering in-state tuition for residents of Georgia from certain border counties. This program would be effective at Tri-County Community College only and would offer in-state tuition to four Georgia counties. A report on the results of this program would be due by September 30, 2024, and the program is set to expire at the end of the 2026-27 academic year.

HB 113 Prohibit Renaming of Fayetteville State

As the title suggests, this bill, if passed, would alter the General Statutes, adding a new section to allow Fayetteville State to maintain its current name as a constituent institution of the UNC System. Since roughly 2016, the institution has produced rumors of a possible name change. This bill would ensure the name remains as it has been since the late ’60s.

HB 149 CC President Confirmation 

Part three of House Bill 149, titled “Confirmation of the President of the Community College System,” would, if passed, transfer the power of electing the system president to the General Assembly. This bill proposes that the State Board shall elect a system president by reviewing three final candidates and choosing the candidate who receives the majority vote. From there, the electee’s name must be presented to the General Assembly, which confirms or denies him, or confirms him as interim president (acting president until a permanent president is appointed).

HB 282 Trade Schools Study

If passed, this bill would instruct the University of North Carolina and North Carolina Community College systems to report on the state’s trades workforce before the 31st of December 2023. Specifically, the systems will have to detail the process of becoming a worker in the following trades: plumbing, heating and air-conditioning, electricity, and welding. This summary includes the educational, experiential, and licensure requirements. Also included in this study must be current data on these workforces and projected needs for the next five years, as well as the options high-school students possess to go into said trades and the possibilities of creating high-school programs for them.

Instead of having to go to the state to fire an FLSA-exempt employee, the Board would have the authority to do so itself.HB 317 UNC Omnibus 

This bill would make multiple changes to the UNC System. Part 2 applies to the School of Science and Math, which is technically not a higher-ed institution even though it is a constituent of the UNC System. Parts 1 and 3 apply to the system’s universities and make the following recommendations.

Part 1 makes a change to the General Statutes to include certain North Carolina A&T staff as exempt from the State Human Resources Act.

Part 2 would include the North Carolina School of Science and Math in the “Distinguished Professor Endowment Fund.”

Part 3 would give the Board of Governors, rather than the state, authority over “certain FLSA-exempt (Fair Labor Standards Act) employees of the university.” In essence, this would make it easier for the BOG to establish (or remove) positions for FLSA-exempt employees, since those who choose “waive career State employee status” would become BOG employees (rather than state employees). This would make hiring more efficient. Included in this exemption are “dentists, pilots, and all other employees of the [UNC system] who are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime compensation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Instead of the BOG having to go to the state whenever it wished to hire/fire an FLSA-exempt employee, it would have the authority to do so itself.

HB 446 Expedite Surplus Prop. / Educational Orgs. 

House Bill 446 would add a new section to the General Statutes to expedite the process for educational organizations to obtain surplus materials and property from the federal government. This section would fall under the “State Agency for Federal Surplus Property” section (Chapter 143, Part 2, Article 3A), which does not currently authorize educational organizations (non-profit institutions) to acquire materials or property that are no longer needed by the state. This bill would include a section doing so.

HB 574 would require each collegiate sports program to “expressly designate” the sex of any given team.HB 574 Fairness in Women’s Sports 

This bill would set parameters for athletic eligibility in institutions of higher education. Applying to constituent institutions of the UNC System, any community college “under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Community Colleges,” and private North Carolina institutions, this bill would require each collegiate sports program to “expressly designate” the sex (reproductive biology) of any given team. This rule would apply to any sports program at the collegiate level that has eligibility requirements established by a national association, “including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).”

HB 601 CC Funding and Accountability 

This bill, if passed, would require the State Board of Community Colleges to conduct a study of, and present options for, improving the current funding model and accountability for community colleges. Due March 1, 2024, the study would report on improving the “process of allocating funds to community colleges, especially allocating funds based on full-time enrollment (FTE),” as well as options for, and benefits of, improving this process.

HB 607 Prohibit Compelled Speech / Higher Ed. 

House Bill 607 would “prohibit compelled speech” at constituent institutions within the UNC System and the North Carolina Community College System. This bill would enact the same protections for both systems, making it unlawful to require students or employees to “endorse or describe their actions related to matters of contemporary political debate or social action. This would apply to student admissions applications, as well as employment applications or consideration for professional advancement.

The Martin Center has written about this bill here.

SB 574 Authorize NIL Agency Contracts 

This bill would authorize “name, image, and likeness” agency contracts for collegiate athletes, and certain contracts would be exempt from public-records requests. NIL contracts allow athletes to make money from the marketing of their names, images, or likenesses. Included in the bill is a warning to students to consult with their institutions before entering into such a contract, because conflicts with state law or institutional policies may prohibit students from being able to compete as athletes.

SB 680 would prohibit “consecutive accreditation” by any one agency.SB 680 Revise Higher Ed Accreditation Processes

This bill would aim to revise the accreditation process for both the UNC System and the Community College System by creating a commission to study the accreditation process. Additionally, the bill proposes changes to the accreditation processes for both systems. Specifically, the bill would prohibit “consecutive accreditation” by any one agency and would allow constituent institutions to follow an “accreditation transfer procedure,” whereby they could seek accreditation from a different agency if not “granted candidacy status.”

The Martin Center has written about this bill here.

SB 692 Community College Governance

Like HB 149, this bill would require that the president of the NC Community College System be confirmed by the General Assembly. However, it also reforms contract provisions with presidents and requires presidents of community colleges to receive the approval of the State Board upon their appointment. In addition, it requires that courses offered by community colleges “at State expense” have to be approved by the State Board. Most notably, it strips the power of the governor to appoint any members of the State Board and instead gives all appointment authority to the General Assembly, while removing the lieutenant governor, treasurer, and secretary of labor from the State Board. Finally, it reorients the selection of boards of trustees members away from the governor and local boards of education to the General Assembly.

It’s yet to be seen which of these bills will make it over the finish line. All still have to pass a second chamber, as well as cross the governor’s desk. Yet, together, these bills represent considerable reform to colleges and universities in North Carolina.

Ashlynn Warta is the state reporter for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. Jenna A. Robinson is the Martin Center president.