Education, Higher Ed, NC Budget and Tax Center

Reaching our state’s educational attainment goal

At this time of year, graduation stories are ever-present, yet their broader meaning to the strength of our economy is less discussed, as are the real barriers to completion that many young people face.

The research is clear that states with large numbers of bachelor’s degree holders have higher median wage levels than other states, according to the Economic Policy Institute. An advanced education also helps make workers more upwardly mobile in North Carolina. The Working Poor Families Project reports that the median earned income for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $18,000 higher than for someone with only a high school diploma.

Recognizing these real economic and community benefits, state leaders through the myFutureNC commission have set a post-secondary attainment goal that by 2030, two-thirds of North Carolinians aged 25 to 44  will hold a post-secondary degree, with a commitment to ensure that workers are acquiring skills and credentials that align with the goals of the state.

One overlooked source of people who can help North Carolina reach its goal are the Dreamers who have been educated here in North Carolina and are blocked from a pathway to post-secondary attainment due to their arrival to this country without documentation, as well as the lack of a tuition equity policy in our state.  Dreamers seeking to attend college in North Carolina are forced to pay out-of-state tuition – often 300 percent higher than the in-state tuition their peers pay – despite having spent their childhoods enrolled in North Carolina schools. In recognition of the inequity this creates, 21 states across the country have set up policies that recognize the investment that young people have in their educational futures and that communities have made in their education to date.

Estimates based on new data from the Migration Policy Institute suggest that, in North Carolina, an expanded tuition equity policy could benefit at least 1,470 graduates each year.

In a brief we released earlier today, Lissette Guerrero looks at the already significant economic contributions of all foreign-born workers and notes the critical role that post-secondary attainment and access to skills training for adult workers could provide in further boosting the economic and community contributions of these workers.

Indeed, as we have written about in the past on the topic of tuition equity, tuition equity can improve educational opportunities for young people in North Carolina and in turn boost employment outcomes and the productivity and growth of industries and the broader economy.

Tuition equity led to a 31 percent increase in college enrollment for undocumented students and a 33 percent increase in the proportion of Mexican young adults with a college degree in the states that adopted the policy. In addition, the average high school dropout rate decreased by 7 percentage points—from 42 percent to 35 percent—in states with tuition equity.

As yesterday’s Undocugraduation event demonstrated, the potential of young Dreamers is vast and important and to continue to block these youth from accessing post-secondary education would  put that potential to waste.

Higher Ed, News

Gallup survey examines alumni views on value of UNC system education

At its Tuesday work session, the UNC Board of Governors heard a report on a Gallup survey of 77,695 alumni from all 16 University of North Carolina system schools.

The survey measured outcomes for alumni of UNC system schools — their employment, income levels, feeling of connection to their university and views on the value of their UNC education.

Overall, the results were very positive.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said they strongly agreed their undergraduate education was worth the cost. That’s 11 percent higher than comparison groups from public institutions nationally and 14 percent higher than all college graduates nationally.

Respondents in the survey were also more likely to have pursued advanced degrees. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they ad completed postgraduate degrees.

Personal and household incomes were also higher among UNC system respondents.

The average annual personal income for UNC system alumni in the survey was $86,291 and the average household income $124,512. That’s more than $10,000 higher than college graduates nationally and higher than respondents from both public institutions and private, not-for-profit institutions.

“To me, this is the story we should have broadcast to the people of our state,” said UNC Board of Governors member Anna Spangler Nelson. “This is a tremendous value – we know it, we say it. This proves it.”

But board member Darrell Allison, one of the board’s few black members, had some questions about the demographic makeup of respondents.

Gallup confirmed that respondents to the survey skewed older and whiter —  77 percent white with the average age about 48.

 

Stephanie Marken, executive director of Education Research for Gallup, said those demographics reflect groups that tend to respond more to surveys and for whom universities tend to have contact information to provide to Gallup.

“We are looking at all living alumni for which they have contact information,” Marken said. “The university now would look very different demographically than it does historically. If we look at more recent graduates in our national sample they tend to be more diverse the younger we get.”

But that is the case across comparable studies using the same mode of contact, Marken said, which also use web-based surveys. That keeps the comparisons accurate.

“We use a very similar methodology when doing our national surveys, so we can compare,” Marken said.

The respondents skewing older as a whole does tend to affect questions like whether alumni believe their degree was worth the cost, Marken said. Older alumni have had more time to apply their degrees, take advantage of career opportunities, to advance and make more money, she said.

Gallup did break out data by individual institutions and provided that data to the institutions this week.

“I would say that we’re very pleased with it overall,” Smith said of the survey, though he did say he would like to see the respondents be more diverse and more reflective of the university’s actual diversity.

“But there has not traditionally been a lot of real world data that we’ve gotten, a lot of benchmarks we can look at,” Smith said. “We have to make decisions here and we want to have the fact, data and detail when we make them. We’re in the changing lives business. We want to be doing it as efficiently as we can. So when we get data that shows the UNC system is doing truly great things, that’s a great thing. It also helps us benchmark how we can get better.”

Read the full report on the survey here.

Higher Ed, News, What's Race Got To Do With It?

Study: College students prefer free tuition to prestigious degrees

A new study released this week gives some interesting insights into college students’ views on the rising cost of tuition and the value of degrees from prestigious universities.

College Pulse conducted the poll of 8,887 students currently attending four-year colleges or universities across the United States.

One of its most interesting findings: 67 percent of college students would prefer “free tuition at a university nobody has heard of” to “full tuition at a prestigious university.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the answers reveal interesting sociological layers when broken down by race and ethnicity.

Black students were most likely (74 percent) to say they would prefer free tuition at an unknown university to full tuition at a prestigious one. White and Latinx students both said they preferred free tuition at about 67 percent. Native American or American Indian students preferred the idea of free tuition at 56 percent and Asian respondents 49 percent.

The study comes as the cost of tuition — and college loan forgiveness — has become a major issue in the Democratic primary for president.

It’s also an issue with which the UNC system and UNC Board of Governors has been struggling the last few  years.

Studies have shown that tuition hikes reduce diversity at universities.

When the N.C. legislature approved dropping tuition at some UNC schools to $500 a semester last year, there were a lot of concerns – lost revenue, the perceived value of a degree, what it would mean for the schools’ reputations to suddenly and explicitly become “value” universities.

Two historically black colleges – including Winston-Salem State and Fayetteville State – opted out.

At the three universities that ultimately became part of the initial NC Promise tuition program –  Elizabeth City State UniversityUniversity of North Carolina at Pembroke and  Western Carolina University  – there are still concerns among some students, faculty, staff and even administrators.

UNC-Pembroke Chancellor Robert Gary Cumming has praised the program.

 

Higher Ed

Amid challenges, UNC System Interim President believes things are settling down

It’s graduation season for North Carolina college students – a time of hope and optimism for graduates.

The Interim President of the University of North Carolina System is also sounding optimistic as he looks ahead to the next few months.

In an interview with Higher Education Works this week, Dr. Bill Roper talks about the departures of UNC System President Margaret Spellings, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton and the need to create a more stable operating environment:

“There’s always going to be some turnover,” he says. “But it is true, in some high-profile jobs in the last year or so, we’ve had substantial turnover. I think we are headed into a quieter phase, if I could put it that way, of less of that kind of turnover. That’s my earnest hope. That’s what I’m trying to produce.”

Roper also shared a few thoughts on getting more productivity out of the system while improving access to higher education.

“We need to do all of this for less money,” he says.
“Even before we get to ‘we wish we had more money,’ we need to show better return, more efficiency, more productivity to the people we serve for the large amount of money that they entrust to us already. The American public and surely the people of North Carolina have decided in large part that higher education just costs too darn much – and we ignore that to our peril.”

Watch a segment of the interview below or click here to read the full interview with Dr. Roper.

Commentary, Higher Ed

The hard truth about for-profit colleges that Virginia Foxx doesn’t want to hear

Rep. Virginia Foxx

In case you missed it, be sure to check out an excellent op-ed that ran in the Winston- Salem Journal on Sunday by Kelly Tornow of the Center for Responsible Lending. In it Tornow tells some hard truths about for-profit colleges and puts one of the industry’s top defenders, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, in her place.

As Tornow explains, for-profit colleges frequently produce poor results at an exorbitant, debt-inducing cost:

At a recent hearing on Capitol Hill about higher education, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina complained about the attention given to problems with for-profit colleges. She said, “To sit here and grind a tired old ax against certain types of institutions you don’t like is just disgraceful.”

But for-profit colleges have a bad reputation for good reason. And in North Carolina, this is no exception.

In fact, a key indicator shows that for-profit colleges in North Carolina have the lowest completion rates in the nation. While public four-year colleges in the state have a completion rate of 56.4%, for-profit four-year programs have an abysmal 16.1% completion rate.

Poor for-profit college outcomes mean lifelong consequences for North Carolina families, particularly people of color, low-income students, women and veterans – ignoring that fact is the true disgrace.

Consider the costs of an expensive, but substandard educational experience. North Carolina for-profit graduates carry over $30,000 in debt at graduation, compared to $23,000 for public students. Since for-profit colleges do such a poor job of preparing students for careers, for-profit college students also have much higher default rates on their student loans.

To make matters worse, Tornow points out, for-profit colleges frequently mask their lousy performance with slick marketing schemes that differ little from predatory lenders while they prey on vulnerable communities and suck up federal education dollars. Now, predictably, the Trump administration is trying to hinder oversight and regulation of the industry.

Here’s Tornow’s on-the-money conclusion:

The U.S. Department of Education is attempting to delay, suspend and rewrite rules that hold for-profits accountable. So Congress should maintain their focus on for-profit colleges as they grapple with responses to the crisis. And states like North Carolina should step up as the feds are stepping back and pass basic measures that give them the tools to oversee for-profit colleges and protect students within our borders.

We can increase oversight and scrutiny of for-profit schools based on poor performance on key indicators like graduation rates, cohort default rates, and job placement rates, requiring that schools meet these basic standards in order to remain licensed. And since for-profits spend much more on advertising and recruiting than on actually teaching their students, states can require, for example, that for-profit schools reverse that and offer value closer to that of public schools, spending more on education than advertising.

The widespread “dislike” of for-profit colleges held up by Rep. Foxx is not arbitrary. What folks don’t like about these institutions is plain and simple. They tend to rake in federal education funds and leave students with heavy debt and no degree or one of little value. With that kind of performance, what is there to like?

Click here to read the entire essay.