Inquiry Paper No. 20: On the Investment Payoff of Higher Education

A recent paper entitled “The Investment Payoff” purports to identify a number of significant benefits from higher education – increased personal income, lower unemployment, improved health, reduced reliance on public assistance, more volunteerism, and increased electoral participation. Readers are subtly led to conclude that increased spending on higher education would mean more of those desirable benefits. The weakness of the paper, however, is that it merely shows correlations between the group of college degree holders and the favorable outcomes. Policy makers should not be swayed by “The Investment Payoff” into putting additional resources into higher education.


Inquiry #19: Tuition Waivers at the N.C. School of Science and Math

Since the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) opened in 1980, the school has attracted some of the state’s top high school students to come to Durham study at the residential high school. At the school, students take college-level courses, and they have performed well on SAT tests and in national competitions and been admitted to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. In recognition of the school’s generally high level of academic achievement, in 2003 the General Assembly instituted a policy of waiving tuition charges for NCSSM graduates who enroll in any University of North Carolina institution. That policy, however, cannot be justified by any of the arguments advanced in its favor. It produces no public benefit, costs the state money, and unfairly discriminates in favor of NCSSM graduates.


Inquiry #18: How Solid is the Core?

The study, by the National Association of Scholars for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, examines the general education requirement and two bellwether majors, English and history, at 11 North Carolina universities, based on information provided by the institutions in their university catalogs for the years 2002 or 2003. We have taken into account the various ways in which individual universities design and publish their catalogs, and have effectively compared all the institutions for the same time frame.


Inquiry #17: Do College Rankings Mean Anything?

The annual college rankings published by U.S. News & World Report are widely read and regarded as an authoritative assessment of the nation’s colleges and universities. If the U.S. News rankings place one school higher than another, many people take that as proof that the higher-ranked school is academically better. Unfortunately, the U.S. News ranking system is deeply flawed.

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Inquiry #16: General Education Requirements at NC Public Universities: What Do Students Get in the Core Curriculum?

Colleges and universities ought to provide their students with a well-rounded education that will equip them for good citizenship and a productive life. Historically, many schools have done that by establishing a core curriculum of courses covering the fields of knowledge that an educated person should be familiar with: American history, the classics of our literature, natural science and mathematics, logic, fine arts, and the social sciences. Throughout the UNC system, few schools insist that their students take courses that would be regarded as crucial components of a sound education.


Inquiry #15: Diversity and Racial Preferences: Implications of the Michigan Case for the UNC System

Race preferential admissions tend to depress the grade, the graduation rates, and advancement to graduate school for those favored in the admissions process. The Supreme Court will soon rule on the legality of such preferences in university admissions. What might this ruling mean for North Carolina?


Inquiry #14: Providing Access: Who Pays What for Higher Education in N.C.

A fiscal crisis is forcing North Carolina to raise college tuition and scale back university budgets. The education community worries that N.C. students are losing “access” to higher education. A look at the most recent data suggests that N.C.’s high standing among the 50 states in those measures means it can weather the current fiscal problems and still provide better access than most other states.


Inquiry #13: The Higher Education Bonds: Hindsight and Foresight

The campaign for the higher education bonds in 2000 told North Carolina voters that the bonds were the best way to handle the University of North Carolina system’s deteriorating facilities and its pressing needs for new buildings to accommodate an expected surge in enrollment. Bond supporters were adamant and explicit in promising voters that the bonds wouldn’t raise their taxes. Now two years after passage, taxes have already risen and the deepening state budget crisis threatens to see them increase again, UNC is favoring new construction over supposedly critical repairs, there has been no sign of a massive surge in enrollment, and UNC is unnecessarily and openly pursuing contracting procedures that are possibly illegal and likely more costly. A moratorium on the bond sales, allowed by the legislation approving the bonds, appears to be the most responsible way to navigate the state’s fiscal crisis and UNC’s crisis of credibility with N.C. voters.


Inquiry #12: Faculty Compensation in N.C.: How Our Research Universities Compare with Peer Institutions

Every year the American Association of University Professors publishes a detailed look at faculty compensation titled, “The Annual Report of the Economic Status of the Profession.” This paper standardizes measures of compensation for cost of living and quality of life and examines recent compensation increases in public universities.


Inquiry #5: A New Model for the Financing of Higher Education in North Carolina

North Carolina has a long history of support for higher education. The state’s financial commitment to higher education is among the strongest in the United States. The high degree of subsidization of higher education in North Carolina has some very important effects. First, it transfers wealth from taxpayers in general to those families who take advantage of the low-cost UNC system. Second, it stimulates the demand for entrance into the system. Third, it works to the detriment of the private colleges and universities in the state. This paper will analyze each effect of North Carolina’s high subsidization of the University system.