Commentary

The Right’s war on higher education in NC continues

Higher Education Works FdtnThe good people at the Higher Education Works Foundation are out with another fine essay documenting and critiquing the latest installment in the Right’s ideological assault on public higher education in North Carolina. This is from a new and well-footnoted post entitled “A continuing retreat”:

“North Carolina’s public universities are obliged to cut $62.8 million this year.  That’s what lawmakers required in the state budget signed into law this month.

It’s not a devastating amount.  Chancellors will work to limit the damage for students, researchers, and programs that directly impact regional economies.

But it’s yet another decision to disinvest from a University system that has already trimmed $700 million since 2008.  And it didn’t have to happen.

Legislators entered the budget session with a hefty surplus, after all. They could have avoided the cuts and still had more than $300 million left. They could have used the state’s improving tax revenue to reinvest in institutions that have seen state support per student decline 20% since 2008.

Instead, they chose to continue a trend of disinvestment from public higher education, a trend that has directly contributed to the rising cost of tuition.”

The post then goes on to take the lead cheerleaders for the cuts — the transparently partisan Pope Center for to Dismantle Higher Education — to task:

“Writing in praise of higher-ed cutbacks on behalf of the Pope Center for Higher Education, Jenna Ashley Robinson says such cuts help balance the budget and force universities to ‘eliminate wasteful and inefficient spending on campus.’

Leaving aside that the state budget was plenty balanced without cuts to education, Robinson ignores how deeply state institutions already trimmed expenses.

From 2008-09 to 2013-14, North Carolina’s public universities produced 18% more graduates while spending 15% less cost per degree when accounting for inflation – they produced more graduates for less money.

But eventually, less funding simply means less higher education.  Less money for teachers, less money for life-changing research, less money to create ripples across regional economies, less money for the high-quality education North Carolina needs to remain competitive.

The Pope Center’s Robinson calls for exactly that:  Recurring cuts, implemented year after year, regardless of budget needs or education goals.

That kind of ideological retreat from public education makes little sense at a time when North Carolina is growing, when the state’s economy is signaling a need for more well-educated workers, and public universities are reeling from almost a decade of disinvestment.”

Click here to read the entire post, the footnotes and a powerful chart documenting the cuts.

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