The Governor’s budget continues investments in the education pipeline beyond K-12 education so that North Carolinians have access to the training and education that prepares them for the workforce and participation in civic life. The post-secondary budget comprises investments in the state’s Community College system and the UNC Public University system. Here are five things you should know about what Gov. Cooper proposes.
- The basics are covered by fully funding enrollment growth. The Community College system projects an increase in enrollment over the next fiscal year, the first since 2012, requiring $8.3 million in investment. The UNC system also projects two years of enrollment growth that is fully funded by the Governor’s proposal ($46.5 million and an additional $48.1 million respectively). Various efforts are funded to ensure that students in both systems are also in classrooms with adequately compensated faculty, including the UNC Faculty Retention Fund ($3 million) and salary increases for faculty.
- Post-secondary education is made more affordable through investments in need-based aid, scholarships and tuition is held steady. No additional increases in tuition at Community Colleges or the UNC system are proposed after years of increases. The Governor has also prioritized making post-secondary education more affordable through investments in the UNC Need Based Aid program (an additional $2 million); fully funding the NC Promise Tuition plan for UNC Pembroke, Western Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University ($11 million of lottery dollars in the second year of the biennium); and two new programs in the second year of the biennium: NC Grow ($19.4 million of lottery dollars) and the NC Best and Brightest ($5 million of lottery dollars) programs. NC Grow would provide a “last-dollar” scholarship to all eligible graduates of a North Carolina high school to cover the cost of community college tuition and fees. NC Best and Brightest would establish a new forgivable loan program for high achieving students who pursue undergraduate education degrees and agree to teach in an NC Public school upon graduation.
- Workforce training is prioritized through evidence-based investments. The Governor proposes the first significant commitment of state dollars to workforce programs since the recovery began. The investments would use lottery dollars to fund continuing education courses at the same level as curriculum courses ($15 million in each year), provide financial assistance to those seeking industry credentials up to $1,000 per student ($2.5 million in the first year and an additional $2.5 million in the second), double the number of NCWorks career coaches in high schools ($1.1 million in the first year, $1.8 million in the second), provide start-up funding for new specialized workforce programs ($3 million in each year), and fund the support services that have been proven to increase completion rates at both Community Colleges and UNC.
- Research and broader connections of community colleges and universities to economic opportunity are funded. The Governor expands support for the translation of research and development into market opportunities ($2 million), supports University centers targeting fields of work like bio-pharmaceuticals and food processing that present growth opportunities and invests in health services and education that reach the surrounding communities.
- Measuring performance of post-secondary investments. The Governor also proposes investments that would allow taxpayers and policymakers to better understand the effect of a community college education on wages ($3 million in each year), would study the true costs of workforce programs to ensure they are fully covered in current funding allocations, and develop the information technology systems in the UNC system to monitor student success and institutional performance (one-time investment of $11.9 million in the first year, and a total of $11.5 million in second year).