2015 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2015

Raise the Bar: Paying more for less in higher education

This post is part of a series on the budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress.  Elizabeth Grace Brown is a student at UNC Chapel Hill and is the author of this piece.

I’ve spent my entire educational life in North Carolina public schools, from kindergarten to today. My schools have always been excellent. I had good classroom sizes, dedicated and attentive teachers, and curricula rich in science, arts and literature. My schools strove to maintain a balance between supporting and challenging me. The guidance I received from teachers and faculty (and from my mother, who’s also a public school teacher in NC) led me to UNC Chapel Hill. But as I grew older and closer to graduation, I could already see that quality eroding. My elementary school’s magnet status was threatened, my high school had no books for us, teachers quit and students dropped out at alarming rates. I have benefited greatly from excellent public education, and budget cuts have put that education in jeopardy.

And I spent my primary education believing that if I worked hard enough, I could graduate and get an affordable, world-class college education in my home state, too. That promise, if it was ever true, certainly seems less and less within my reach every day. Every time tuition is raised, by the Board of Governors at the urging of the legislature, I go more into debt. Policy makers seem like their concerns about student debt revolve around parents and families paying tuition, but that’s not the case – my loans are on me. Asking your parents for help paying for college is a luxury that’s already out of reach for so many North Carolina students.

And I refuse to believe any longer that the increasing cost and declining quality of education in this state is something that these policy makers can’t help. Funding isn’t a just a question of allocating resources efficiently, it’s a question of values. And it’s clear that NC leadership doesn’t value education — not as much as they value tax cuts for the wealthy, or corporate subsidies. The most recent funding increases barely scratch the surface of the damage that’s been done under the guise of fiscal responsibility. Among this state’s politicians and leaders, talk of supporting education is plentiful – but talk is cheap.

And the lip service they pay to the value of education is selective, too. They love fields that will bring more profit to the already wealthy: finance, business and STEM, but not one of the forty-six degree programs that the Board of Governors just decided to cut. They don’t care for us to become critical thinkers, to know our own histories and the histories of our marginalized communities, to grow as people.

Steven Long of the Board of Governors made it clear when he said, regarding these program cuts: “We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.” They treat our education like it’s a commodity —  but they still expect us to pay more for less! As an Economics major, as a student, as an organizer and as a North Carolinian, I can tell you plainly — this doesn’t make sense, and this can’t last.


  1. Laurie

    May 26, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I do find it interesting, for most part say they support STEM. They are as backward with it as they are Foreign Languages or Music. Both of which have very high accolades of being part of innovation.

    Just last week I read a interview with CEO of LinkedIn. His degree was in Philosophy, and he went through some great length of how it has helped him with all things “critical thinking.”

  2. Laurie

    May 26, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Sorry, I failed to finish my thought. “accolades of being part of innovation…” in STEM areas.

    They support H1B1 Visas, without realizing we do have the talent, always have, but you know that under 35 crowd is attractive for several reasons to a company, and not because you lose your smarts or innovation after 35.

  3. LayintheSmakDown

    May 27, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    You are just so full of it Sitora. If you look at the criteria the BOG used then the main point is that a degree on one campus that only awards about 10 each year is a huge waste of resources. At a minimum there are other campuses that students can go to and get a similar degree, and it will be more efficient. You have to agree that graduating 50-100 students in a year at one campus is better for the system than 5-10 schools duplicating similar efforts. Also the fact that there is little demand in the real world for these degrees means they were ripe for cancelling.

    Also, if you look at the cancelled degrees few of them were classical curriculum dedicated to critical thinking. Now, I agree that the schools need to get more in line with requirements that are dedicated to critical thinking, but those types of classes can (and should) be inserted into almost every degree. Some of the dubious classes such as gender studies can still exist, but a full degree…that is not really needed.
    As far as the STEM comment. This is where the world is going, just face it a person with those degrees can come out and actually get a job and contribute to society. Where do you actually get a job in NC with a core major of Latin Education, African Studies, or Film Music Composition? Oh and there are several STEM items on the cut list, so everyone has taken a hit.

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