UNC President Tom Ross and N.C. Community College President Scott Ralls were joined by two lawmakers, state Sens. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) and Josh Stein (D-Wake), at the RTP Headquarters in Durham.
— Sarah Ovaska (@SarahOvaska) April 22, 2015
Ross learned he would be out of a job in January, in a surprise move by the UNC Board of Governors to find a new president that many suspect had political motivations. (Ross was hired under a board that of Democratic appointees, the current UNC Board of Governors all received appointments from a Republican-led legislature.)
Ralls announced last week he was leaving his job of 7 years leading North Carolina’s 58-campus community college system for a job leading a Virginia community college.
On Wednesday night, Ross, the UNC president, commented that the loss of Ralls would be significant for North Carolina, and that under Ralls’ leadership, the community college system worked closely with the university system by pushing for articulation agreements for students to easily transfer credits from one system to the next.
“I couldn’t have a better partner than Scott Ralls,” Ross said.
Below is a run-down of some of the more interesting comments made by the four men last night:
—>One of the biggest threats to the university system? Faculty retention, according to UNC President Tom Ross. Faculty saw average salary increases of 1.5 percent over the last seven years, a time period in which inflation has gone up by 10 percent.
Ross said the state’s flagship school, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in particular, is seeing a spike in professors leaving campus. The school typically had 30 out of every 100 professors with job offers end up leaving the campus. That jumped up to 70 percent last year, he said.
“It’s more than just compensation, frankly,” Ross said. “Most faculty are not in it for the money. There are other factors are in the minds and hearts right now that are causing them to look elsewhere.”
—>State Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, reiterated Ross’ point about departing faculty. Stein said he recently spoke with a dean on N.C. State University’s campus that relayed that more staff in his area left last year than in the prior three years. More remarkably, Stein said, those leaving told the dean to not even bother seeking a counter offer.
Stein mentioned a bill he’s filed (but hasn’t been heard), that would restrict state lottery funds to paying for pre-K slots, and providing college scholarships to low-income students.“We have to be creative,” Stein said.
—>State Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican, remarked when he visited chancellors on all 17 campuses after first taking office, he wanted to hear what metrics (SAT scores, class rank, etc.) they thought were the best predictors of whether students would be successful in college.
To his surprise, he heard that the length of time a student spent in pre-K or early education programs was what made the difference.
—>When asked for comment about President Barack Obama’s proposal to make community college free for all students who can maintain high grades, N.C. Community College President Scott Ralls said he wonders if other approaches could help more in North Carolina, where tuition is already low.
The community college student is predominantly made up of low-income students, and more needs to be done to support those students, Ralls said.
Among Ralls’ suggestions were expanding Pell Grants (which are provided to very low-income students) to cover summer sessions, and putting day-care facilities on community college campuses so that parents can work toward their degrees without barriers.
“The greatest challenges our students face is not getting in, but staying in,” Ralls said.