Here’s a quick take on how North Carolina’s educational institutions fared in its overdue two-year budget unveiled last night. (Click here to read or peruse the 429-page budget.)

The Senate holds its first vote on the budget this afternoon, the House is expected to take it up on Thursday.

Reaction was mixed to the budget, when it came to education.

“The General Assembly’s budget doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of our students and public schools,” said Rodney Ellis, the head of the N.C. Association of Educators, in a statement. “North Carolina can’t afford to lose a generation of students by disregarding the resources they need to be successful.”

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The search for the next president of the University of North Carolina system is moving along quickly, with a search committee now looking at individual candidates.

UNCsystemAn announcement came last night that the presidential search committee will meet three times over the next week for “candidate review.” The meetings will be held on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, on SAS’s Campus in Cary.

“They are down to the point where they are considering individual candidates more closely,” said Joni Worthington, a spokeswoman for the UNC system.

The meetings begin at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and at 8:30 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, according to a meeting notice distributed to media.

(Ann Goodnight, wife of SAS co-founder Jim Goodnight, is a former UNC Board of Governor member serving on the presidential search committee).

The current UNC President Tom Ross will stay in his job until January, and the governing board has indicated it hopes to have his successor announced this fall.

The presidential search committee will present its choice to the full Board of Governors, which is meeting next week in Winston-Salem. The following meeting will be at the end of October, in Chapel Hill.

The presidential search meetings next week have to be publicly announced and are considered public meetings, though the bulk of the meeting will be held in closed session, in line with the board’s decision to keep the search for the next UNC system president confidential.

Other states take different tactics when it comes to confidentiality, with the names of final candidates for public higher education posts sometimes released to the public or opportunities for candidates to meet with major stakeholders like faculty and staff.

That was the case this month in Iowa, where the new head of the that system, former IBM executive Bruce Harreld, is now facing resistance from faculty, staff and student groups worried about his lack of higher education experience.

Harreld, when he met with faculty during the interview process in Iowa, also rankled faculty with a comment he learned about the University of Iowa system from Wikipedia.

Here in North Carolina, the UNC Board of Governors fired its current president Tom Ross last January, for reasons that still have not been fully explained other than a general desire for change and new direction.

Ross, a Democrat, has led the UNC system since 2011, a time when the system contended with significant funding cuts from the state legislature and while higher education rapidly underwent changes overall.

The current 32 members of the UNC Board of Governor all received their appointments from a N.C. General Assembly dominated by Republicans.


An essay penned by a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claiming a course at one of North Carolina’s flagship schools cast a favorable light on the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack has gone viral in the last week.

The freshman journalism student, Alec Dent, claimed in his essay published on the conservative news site College Fix that readings for the optional freshman seminar course “present terrorists in a sympathetic light and American political leaders as greedy, war hungry and corrupt.”

Problem is, as he told WRAL earlier this week, he didn’t actually take the class or read the listed materials.

UNC offers more than 80 seminar courses to its students but “Literature of 9/11” struck a chord with Dent. The course claims to explore a diverse number of themes related to the September 11 attacks, but for Dent it was not diverse enough.

“The class reading list is what first stuck out to me because it really got me thinking, is this a fair and balanced way of looking at the situation,” Dent said.

The freshman journalism major said that he looked at the reading list as well as the class syllabus before writing a piece for an online student publication called “The College Fix.”

Dent admits that he has not taken the class, nor has he read any of the books on the list, but he still felt the course was too one-sided.

“The more research I did into it, the more it seemed like the readings were sympathetic towards terrorism.”

A student who did do the reading and did take the class took issue with Dent’s description, saying that he enjoyed the class taught by Prof. Neel Ahuja, an associate professor in English at UNC, and found it was balanced.

Since Dent’s review was posted a week ago, it’s gone viral in conservative websites and media outlets, with outrage abounding.

Media Matters took a look at a Fox News segment, which had the header “Required Reading: UNC class sympathizes with 9/11 terrorists” and pointed out that the readings were not required, nor were they pushing a single point of view.

“In addition, the full list of assigned readings for the course does in fact contain diverse literature representing the perspectives of Arab-Americans, residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, artists, historians, musicians, and the international Muslim community, as well as several texts aimed to honor or memorialize victims of the attacks,” the Media Matters piece states.

Watch the Fox News segment for yourself below.


Note: This post has been updated to include comments about the dismissal from Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Assault charges against R. Doyle Parrish, a member of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, were dropped last week, according to court information.

R. Doyle Parrish

R. Doyle Parrish

Parrish, 61, was arrested in May and accused by Raleigh police of assaulting his wife by slapping and pushing her in a May 12 incident at the couple’s North Raleigh home.

He is the chief executive officer and co-founder of the Raleigh-based Summit Hospitality Group, which manages 17 hotels and several restaurants.

Parrish faced a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female, but the case was dismissed by prosecutors on Wednesday, according to information filed at the Wake County courthouse.


Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday that the assault charge against Parrish was dropped because his wife Nancy Parrish, who hired an attorney of her own, was not willing to testify against her husband.

The couple has undergone counseling since the May incident and it did not appear to be a situation where there was an ongoing pattern of physical abuse, Freeman said.

“There was no indication this was an ongoing domestic violence situation,” she said.

Freeman said her office does not generally drop domestic violence cases based on victim’s cooperation alone, but did so in Doyle Parrish’s case because there was little evidence to purse the criminal case with outside of Nancy Parrish’s statements.

Freeman also said Doyle Parrish was not given any special treatment by her office. 

The court file for Parrish’s case could not be located Monday by staff at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Following his arrest, Parrish kept his seat on the UNC Board of Governors, the 32-member board that directs the state’s 17-campus university system. He did step down from committees tasked with selecting the UNC system’s next president, citing the need to take care of some personal issues.

This post will be updated if more details about the dismissed charges become available.



It’s certainly not the highest-profile issue, but the new $21.74 billion state budget (whenever it does get passed) could usher in a new approach to higher education in the state.

Earlier House and Senate versions of the budget endorsed giving Western Governors University, an online-based higher education system, a bigger footprint in the state, and one propped up with taxpayer money.

At this point, there are more questions than answers about what will end up in the final state budget, with House and Senate lawmakers now two months behind issuing a budget for the next two years.


WGU headquarters in Utah

Western Governors University, or WGU, is a non-profit online college, started in 1995 by a bipartisan group of governors in the western part of the country. It specializes in reaching out to “part-way home” students, those that had taken some college courses but because of life or family choices before obtaining a degree.

(Click here to read a previous article about WGU’s foray into North Carolina.)

It costs students approximately $3,000 for unlimited classes during a 6-month period and uses a competency-based model, where students can get credits for classes if they already know the material and can pass a test showing that.

Here in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory is in favor of bringing WGU to the state, and had a meeting at the Executive Mansion in November with Robert Mendenhall, the CEO of the Utah-based University.

In their proposal, House members suggested letting students attending WGU to tap into a $90 million pool of state money used for need-based aid to students attending private colleges in the state.

The Senate took a different approach, and would give the Utah-based college $2 million in state money to set up shop here, with the possibility of drawing down $5 million more if private funds are also raised.

As expected, WGU has both proponents and critics.

It’s hailed by supporters as a fairly low-cost way for older students who may be busy working to finish their degrees, while critics say it offers an inferior education and undermines existing offerings at universities and community colleges.

The $6,000 annual cost for a year at WGU is much lower than what for-profit online colleges like the University of Phoenix and Strayer University can cost.

But it is on par, or close to what UNC system institutions charged this year in tuition and fees, which range from $4,655 a year at Elizabeth City State University to $8,407 at N.C. State University for the 2015-16 school year.

WGU currently has a six-year graduation rate of 38 percent, a rate they hope to increase, which is much lower than the 63.1 percent that graduate from UNC institutions in six years.

Not everyone’s thrilled at the prospect of WGU coming to the state.

John Fennebresque, the chair of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, says the state’s existing higher education institutions can do more for North Carolina-based students than WGU can.

He attended the November meeting McCrory had with WGU in November.

“We can do all that within the (UNC) system,” Fennebresque said in an interview this week with N.C. Policy Watch. He added, “I saw nothing that they offer that we don’t or can’t do.”