Commentary

Higher education group: NC lawmakers failed to do their jobs in 2016

In case you missed it, the folks at Higher Education Works published a roundup/review of the recently adjourned 2016 legislative session as it related to the state’s colleges and universities this week. The basic take: Lawmakers deserve, at best, an “incomplete” grade for their performance (or lack thereof). Here’s the introduction:

“2016 General Assembly took a pass

With the 2016 session of the General Assembly now over, it’s clear legislators largely took a pass on urgent issues facing higher education in North Carolina:  Fixing HB2 and providing a meaningful raise for university and community college faculty:

  • Faculty raises.

The folks who teach our children at the university level have seen one raise from the legislature in the past seven years.  Eleven of 16 public universities rank below the 50th percentile when compared with peer institutions in average faculty compensation.  Campuses have seen attrition as a result:  76% of faculty who received competing offers from 2012-14 accepted those offers and left.

Legislators did find a way to give K-12 teachers election-year raises that average 4.7%.

But the General Assembly gave university and community college faculty raises of just 1%, plus a one-time bonus of 0.5% and a merit bonus that will average about 0.75%.

Stephen Leonard, the Chair of the UNC System’s Faculty Assembly, says faculty are loyal to their schools and students.

“But they are not immune to disrespect and contempt.  This raise is too little, too late, and too obvious in its implications:  1.5% is just enough to enable the legislature … to publicly brag about addressing lagging salaries, but not enough to convince faculty and staff that the public ballyhoo really marks the end of the scorn with which they have been treated.”

The raises were overdue and welcome.  But they are not enough to attract and retain the top faculty in the country to teach our children in an economy that increasingly demands a college degree.

  • Fix HB2.

The law that requires everyone to use restrooms in government buildings that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate has proved an international embarrassment to North Carolina and cost the state thousands of jobs.  It has also hurt recruitment of students and faculty at our public universities.

In the closing days of the session, lawmakers did tweak the law to restore the right to sue for discrimination in state court.  But they left the controversial bathroom provision intact.

The change is not enough to alter perceptions that with HB2, North Carolina discriminates against the LGBT community.

  • Funds for enrollment growth.

The budget agreement includes $31 million to provide for 3,125 additional students at state universities, a 1.5% increase.  It reduces funds for community colleges by $26 million to adjust for a 4.1% decline in enrollment – the equivalent of 8,578 students….”

Click here to read the rest of this damning assessment.

One Comment


  1. James C.

    July 9, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Why did you not mention any of the positives that the lawmakers accomplished? Reducing tuition to $500 a semester at 3 of the UNC schools, freezing tuition rates when a student enters college, capping fee increases, and the article you reference even says that the short session was OK for higher education in NC.

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