At their best, community colleges provide educational opportunities to individuals who otherwise might not have them. They offer specialized workforce training that can lead to rewarding careers, as well as streamlined transfer options for those seeking more advanced degrees. But it seems that, while singing the praises of such schools, policymakers have overlooked serious problems … Continue reading “In North Carolina, Community College Controversies Open Pandora’s Box”
Recently, a legislative proposal aimed at improving graduation rates at the University of North Carolina system’s 16 institutions was nixed due to vehement opposition from university leaders. In its place is a watered-down initiative that delays much-needed reform and emphasizes academic handholding rather than high academic standards and student readiness. There is a strong connection … Continue reading “The Higher Education Establishment’s Self-Interest Goes Unchecked—Again”
Bills filed in the North Carolina General Assembly would provide student loan debt relief to “public interest” attorneys and to K-12 teachers. Both proposals are ill-advised. Rather than erase debt for those in politically connected groups, lawmakers should work to address the root causes of skyrocketing college costs, which are borne by all North Carolina students through the tuition and fees they pay each semester. Of course, state taxpayers also cover those costs, with roughly $2.6 billion allotted annually to the University of North Carolina System.
There are limits to technology’s influence on higher education, just as there are limits to the “disruptive innovation” theory generally. And although some colleges have lived beyond their means in recent years, there are compelling reasons to believe that most of them will find ways to adapt and become solvent. The higher education sector is vibrant, and its resiliency precludes apocalypse.
UNC System leaders are overhauling their 2013 strategic planning initiative. Whether that will result in sound reform ideas, however, is up in the air. North Carolina’s university system is a powerful force in the state—armed with its own lobbying team, almost 50,000 employees, and a $9.5 billion annual budget. It is a machine with a tendency to aggrandize. Curbing its appetite for expansion and self-serving policies won’t be easy.
Two years ago I attended a student debate at North Carolina Central University, one of the state’s five public historically black colleges and universities. It was fascinating, especially given the self-examination raised by its topic, “HBCUs: Can They Survive?” The moderator asked several incisive questions: Would the closure of HBCUs materially impair black students’ access to higher education? Would closing some HBCUs make the remaining ones stronger? Would the civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s support an enduring HBCU presence today? As I reported at the time, the students eloquently argued both “pro” and “con” positions and deeply engaged with the relevant facts and issues. If only more of today’s political and higher education leaders did the same.
Federal, state, and local higher education laws seem to multiply by the hour. Bureaucrats now dictate campus policies regarding academics, sexual assault, athletics, dining, technology, employment, campus construction, and student health, among other areas. Meanwhile, schools devote millions of dollars and valuable resources to comply with those rules—many of which confuse and do little to improve student outcomes.
The increased use of non-tenure track (NTT) faculty by universities has drawn condemnation from many entrenched in the seniority system. But critics may be ignoring the more complex realities of modern higher education. They may also be ignoring the rise of full-time NTT faculty, which recent evidence suggests has significantly benefited schools and students. Fortunately, officials at Western Carolina University, NC State University, and other schools in North Carolina and elsewhere are recognizing that the NTT is not a monolith, and are taking steps to establish better faculty hiring systems.
An especially pernicious brand of environmentalism—”sustainability”—is on the verge of becoming an unstated, but very real, part of North Carolina State University’s mission. University leaders are developing an aggressive public relations campaign and curriculum change that could create a system in which students are inculcated in social justice, environmental justice, and progressivism—all of which are tenets of sustainability. Left unchecked, this seemingly harmless movement (which has a strong presence at other North Carolina universities, too) could sow the seeds of social upheaval by turning hearts and minds away from the principles of a free society.
The Pope Center’s latest report, The State of the State University 2015: Critical Facts about the University of North Carolina System, is a must-read for students, parents, taxpayers, and policymakers who want the UNC system to achieve its highest potential—and its peak efficiency. Here’s hoping that, in 2016, North Carolina leaders, instead of sugarcoating the shortcomings identified in this report, choose instead to address them head on.