Socket Wrenches in the Book Bag

Since the 1990s, NASCAR has grown from a sport rooted in the Southeast to an American institution with a fan base second only to the National Football League. Throughout NASCAR’s history, North Carolina has always been among its central locations and the sport has done fine here without government assistance.

Today the sport has its home base in the state, with most of the in its three main divisions (Nextel Cup, Busch Series, Craftsman Truck) setting up shop in the Charlotte region. Industry estimates claim that auto racing contributes $5 billion annually to the state’s economy and creates more than 24,000 jobs, most of them related to engineering, design, and fabrication of the stock cars. Those are jobs that, for the most part, require a higher level of training that that of your typical auto mechanic.

Things We Could Do Without in the State Budget

On Monday, legislators gave final approval of a $20.7 billion budget for the 2007-08 Fiscal Year. Less than a day later, Gov. Mike Easley signed and sealed the package.

The budget appropriates $2.6 billion to the University of North Carolina system and $938 million for the community colleges.

“We have put reality behind the vision of an affordable, debt-free education from pre-kindergarten to an undergraduate degree at a state university,” Easley said in a statement. “Out of this budget, North Carolina emerges a leader in education on the national scene. History will note the courage and foresight of those who did not just make easy promises, but did the hard work to keep those promises and stand up for the future of our state.”

Among the items included in the budget are some that Gov. Easley and budget writers should be proud of, in my opinion. The budget spends $1.5 million to allow part-time private college students to participate in the legislative tuition grant program and $177,000 to provide additional funding for the Gateway Technology Center on the campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College. It also makes reductions to follow the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Committee on Efficiency and Effectiveness.

Lloyd Hackley is UNC’s problem solver

Lloyd Hackley is on the job again.

After serving as interim chancellor for a year at N.C. A&T, Hackley was named last week to serve in the same position at Fayetteville State University. This after Chancellor T.J. Bryan resigned under pressure due to concerns about the school’s nursing program and financial condition.

Media reports following Bryan’s resignation indicate that UNC President Erskine Bowles asked for her resignation in a meeting in Chapel Hill.

Being an Angry Faculty Radical Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

To recap the news out of Durham this year: In April, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper declared Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans – the Duke University lacrosse players accused by “exotic dancer” Crystal Gail Mangum of rape and sexual assault – “innocent of these charges.”

In June, rogue district attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred and removed from office after being caught in dozens of instances of professional misconduct in his management of the case.

Legislators debate merits of UNC projects

RALEIGH – Members of a House subcommittee Thursday challenged the merits of two UNC items at the top of the university system’s legislative wish list.

Primarily, legislators questioned whether a new dental school at East Carolina University is a sound investment and whether a large expenditure for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina North project would crowd out funding for other programs statewide.

UNC Tomorrow Commission launched

GREENVILLE – University of North Carolina leaders announced Friday the members of a “blue ribbon” panel that will examine the system’s future and how it can meet the needs of the state.

The initiative, UNC Tomorrow, was launched at last month’s Board of Governors meeting with Norma Mills, former Chief of Staff for Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight, serving as the executive director for the study. The entire process is scheduled to take 18 months, with a report to be presented early next year.

The University of Illinois’ Global Campus Initiative

Online education has largely been treated like a stepchild in the world of higher education. It gets a bit of food and some old clothes, but not much attention in comparison with the university’s real children. A new online initiative begun by the University of Illinois, however, may give this Cinderella a more prominent place than it has had before.

Announced last May, the Global Campus Initiative (GCI) is a remarkable university undertaking that should give online education more prominence. What’s more, the GCI is intended to be a profit-making venture and the startup capital will be raised from private sources. The tuition paid by students – and no breaks for Illinois residents – are expected to cover all costs. Implicitly, Illinois is saying, “We think we have an educational product that will pass the test of the market.” Very interesting, especially since several high-profile online education ventures have failed.

Panel OKs ECU Dental School

CHAPEL HILL — A University of North Carolina Board of Governors committee Thursday gave approval to plans for a dental school at East Carolina University. The full Board of Governors will vote today on whether to give final approval to the creation of the state’s second dental school.

Members of the Board of Governors’ Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs gave unanimous approval to the plan following a brief presentation by Alan Mabe, vice president for academic planning for the UNC system. Mabe’s presentation outlined the plan, accompanied by comments from a review committee that included dental experts from across the nation.

The push for a new dental school has been billed by supporters as an effort to alleviate the shortage of dentists in the state, especially in rural areas. The price tag for a new dental school at ECU is estimated at $90 million.

UNCG, A&T Eye Nano Program

GREENSBORO — UNC-Greensboro and North Carolina A&T officials recently submitted a request to the University of North Carolina general administration to operate a school of nanotechnology and nanoengineering.

If approved by the Board of Governors, students would be enrolled starting in the fall 2008. The program would mark the second time the two schools together offered a degree program. The schools already offer a combined master’s degree in social work.

School officials have requested a total of $65 million, including funding for new buildings and other operational costs, from UNC in the 2007-2010 budget for the program. Should the Board of Governors approve the program, its budget would still require approval by the General Assembly.

Nanotechnology is focused on microscopic research and development concepts.