At the Pope Center we spend a lot of time recommending changes to higher education policy. It’s in our name. But there are ways you—as a citizen, parent, student, or employer—can pressure higher education to change.
Next month will be the tenth anniversary of the spring break party that triggered the Duke lacrosse case. That incident probably remains the highest-profile false rape claim in recent U.S. history—rivaled only by the claim against University of Virginia fraternity members leveled, and then retracted, by Rolling Stone. An unwillingness to engage in any critical self-reflection is the foremost legacy of how the academy responded to the lacrosse case, at Duke and beyond.
As the stock market gyrates and talk of a new recession begins, many universities have reason to worry. The cost of college education hasn’t stopped rising, students are fearful of being burdened by debt, and political pressure is beginning to weigh in. Congress is entertaining a bill that would require 25 percent of a school’s endowment spending to go toward student financial aid, and several presidential candidates have unveiled plans to solve the student debt crisis. At the state level, the return of state support to its pre-recession levels may be in jeopardy. But a few universities have chosen to take a different route. In addition to looking for more state revenues, they’ve found ways to reduce their expenditures and to ease the financial burden on students.
The multi-billion dollar college athletics industry is under attack. While there is no shortage of reports on academic and financial abuses, a new problem is emerging: evidence of long-term neurological effects caused by high-impact head trauma in football. This problem has gained notoriety from a new movie, Concussion, which tells the story of a doctor trying to link previous head trauma to uncommon deaths in professional football players.
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.
Looking back at all that happened in higher education this year is enough to make your head spin. One minute, state politicians are finally making good policies; the next, university officials are caving to irrational demands. At the other end of the spectrum, politicians are promoting policies of monumental stupidity, while the courts are making surprisingly good decisions (but not always). A majority of students favor putting extreme limits for political correctness on free speech, while an opposition is coalescing around protecting the First Amendment and due legal processes. And on and on it goes. To try to capture the spirit of 2015, the Pope Center staff identified ten of the year’s major trends and events.
A barrage of articles in the popular press points out the escalating cost of higher education, rising student debt levels, and the financial struggles many colleges and universities face. Although many factors are at play, we maintain that expenditures of college athletics are a significant factor that are often overlooked, in particular for small schools, especially those with big-time athletic programs.
The truth is most college donations make very little impact, at best. On occasion, they are used to produce a bad impact. But that doesn’t mean giving to higher education is necessarily bad or irrelevant. In fact, if done properly, it can be exceedingly valuable.
A new report on intercollegiate athletics programs produced by the UNC system’s general administration shows that the hardest lesson from the largest academic scandal in NCAA history is being ignored. Athletes with weak academic skills continue to be admitted to universities where they have little chance of successfully completing rigorous coursework.
If UNC-Chapel Hill officials can unceremoniously dump me for speaking out against the injustice done to my son and the lack of due process in campus sexual assault cases, they can and will do it to others who speak out on other issues. This is bigger than my job or myself; it is about the right to raise your voice on the UNC campus—a school that prides itself on a tradition of free speech—in protest of all and any injustice.