Commentary

Post highlights “worrisome” trends in NC’s support for higher ed

Gov. Pat McCrory is out today with a rather surprising news release in which he lauds five of the state’s HBCU’s for new national recognition that they received. According to the Guv, the schools “are an important part of our state’s longstanding commitment to excellence in higher education.”

What a pleasant change of pace! For years, of course, the Guv and his fellow conservatives have been badmouthing and under-funding HBCU’s (indeed, our entire system of higher education). Staffers over at the Pope Center for Higher Education — founded by McCrory’s old budget director — regularly call for downsizing the UNC system and almost always start their discussions with HBCU’s. Then of course, there was the recent attempt by conservatives at the General Assembly to include multiple HBCU’s in their half-baked plan to slash tuition at several UNC system campuses without a solid proposal for how to replace the lost revenue.

Ultimately, of course, all of this is part and parcel of the Right’s ongoing effort in North Carolina to gradually undermine and privatize higher ed. As the good people at Higher Education Works note in a new blog post, though things here remain better than in a lot of states, the trends are not encouraging. The post notes that:

“The flagship campus at UNC Chapel Hill has built resources to limit the debt of its graduates, when adjusted for inflation, to the same level it was 15 years ago – a remarkable achievement in an era of rapidly escalating student debt.

But that’s not the case across the rest of our public universities.  Paralleling the increases in tuition, the average debt for graduates of North Carolina’s 16 state universities has climbed and approached the national average.”

The post concludes this way:

“College graduates benefit all of North Carolina, whether through higher wages, better health, engaged citizenship or reduced government dependence.  But debt can keep them from sharing their economic energy with the rest of the state.

So by several key measures, the support North Carolina shows for its public universities distinguishes it from other states – we should be proud of that and sustain it.  That support benefits both individual students and the state itself.

But some trend lines are worrisome, and we must be vigilant to protect North Carolina’s advantage.”

Unfortunately, right now, that vigilance frequently involves resisting the efforts of the state’s current elected leaders.

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