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.

Education

A ‘handful’ of NCPTA convention attendees walked out during Superintendent Mark Johnson’s speech

Susan Book

A handful of people attending the N.C. Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) Convention reportedly walked out during a speech by State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

Some members of the organization were critical of the organization for allowing Johnson to speak at its 100th Convention held in Charlotte last week.

The walkout follows an online petition signed by more than 100 people disappointed that Johnson was allowed to speak.

Susan Book, a member of the NCPTA’s Special Education Inclusion Committee, started the petition.

Book said Monday that she walked out on Johnson’s speech because she doesn’t believe he stands up for “public education in North Carolina.”

“To be a keynote speaker, an elected official should have more than just a title,” Book said.  “They should be a champion for the cause.  I haven’t seen this from Mark Johnson.”

Johnson could not be reached late Monday afternoon for comment.

However, Linda Crandall, a member of the NCPTA Special Education Inclusion Committee and the organization’s board of directors, wrote N.C. Policy Watch to clarify how Johnson became a convention speaker.

Crandall contends Johnson was not invited to speak, but reached out to NCPTA to ask how he could help during the convention.

She said neither Book’s statements critical of Johnson nor those made by her supporters reflect the views of NCPTA.

“Our organization is strictly non-partisan. We interact with elected officials — and others — equally, on the basis of respect and looking for ways to work together to serve students in our state with one voice,” Crandall wrote. “We also treat speakers at our events with equal respect, regardless of status, political party or any other parameters.”

Meanwhile, Book said she was inspired to walkout by the thousands of teachers who took the day of May 1 to advocate for public schools.

“Compared to their work, walking out on Mark Johnson is nothing,” Book said.

Book tweeted this message from the Convention:

“A handful of us walked out and refused to be an audience for Mark Johnson at the #NCPTACon2019.  Since he refuses to respect teachers and NC Public Education, I feel he should not get a podium at NCPTA convention.”

Dozens of people, many of them educators, weighed in on social media about Johnson and the NCPTA Convention.

Jennifer L. Bourne, an educational equity advocate who lives in East Charlotte attended the convention. Here’s what she posted on her Facebook page:

“Yesterday, in Charlotte, NC Superintendent Mark Johnson stood in front of a room of betrayed parents from across the state, and talked about “urgency… innovation… and support[ing] teachers.” He is truly a magician, who talks about the “American dream,” while simultaneously, intentionally, and actively failing to protect the strong public schools where the dreams of our most vulnerable children grow. I have never been more publicly angry. Time to step it up, North Carolina PTA!!!!! #LiarLiarPantsOnFire.”

Commentary, Education

News & Observer “fact check” on senator’s school voucher claim tells only half the story

A recent News and Observer “fact check” weighed into the North Carolina Senate’s debate over a bill that would expand eligibility for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship voucher program. The article rates Sen. Natasha Marcus’s claim that there’s no wait list for Opportunity Scholarship vouchers as “Half True” because she failed to tell “the full story.” Yet in going after Sen. Marcus’s statement, the N&O also fails to tell the whole story. By their own measure, the “fact check” itself is just “Half True.”

The bill that Sen. Marcus was debating, SB 609, would make two major changes to expand eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship voucher.

First, the bill (which has passed the Senate and now awaits action in the House) would remove the cap on the number of new vouchers that could be provided to students in grades K-1. Currently, only 40 percent of new scholarships may be awarded to students in grades K-1.

Second, the bill would allow more middle-income families to be eligible for vouchers. Currently, families are eligible if their income is within 246.05 percent of the federal poverty level. If SB 609 becomes law, families with incomes within 277.5 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible. That would raise the eligibility from $63,359 to $71,457 for a family of four.

Senators are pushing these changes because in every year of its existence, funding for Opportunity Scholarship vouchers has exceeded awards of Opportunity Scholarships. Dollars have outstripped demand.

Given the program’s consistent over-funding, it’s totally reasonable that Marcus concluded, “Every student who’s eligible right now has received a voucher…So, there’s no wait list.” However, as the N&O points out, there were 520 income-eligible students in FY 18-19 who did not receive a voucher due to the cap on awards to students in grades K-1. These students are not placed on a wait list, so Marcus is correct – there is no wait list. And even if they were given full-value vouchers, the program would still be over-funded for FY 18-19. But the N&O decided to call her technically true statement “Half True” for “not telling the full story.”

Yet the N&O also fails to tell the whole story.

First, the N&O fails to mention why the cap on K-1 students is important. The cap was put into place because many of the vouchers awarded to students in those grades end up going to children who would have gone to private school anyway. Unlike students in grades 2-12, voucher applicants entering kindergarten or first grade are not required to have previously been enrolled in a public school. The creators of the Opportunity Scholarship voucher put the cap in place – originally set at 35 percent – to limit the amount of funding that the program would drain from public schools. After all, the state fails to save any money by giving someone a voucher to do something they were planning to do already.

The proof is in the numbers. Read more

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.

 

Education

NCAE issues statement opposing controversial ICE bill

The N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) issued a statement Monday strongly opposing House Bill 370, which would require local sheriff’s to cooperate with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and assist federal authorities in deportation hearings.

If the bill becomes law, the NCAE said it could have a chilling effect on school children and their families.

“This bill would make children from the immigrant community more fearful of attending school, and needlessly inject more anxiety and stress into their lives,” the NCAE said.

The education advocacy group also said HB 370 has the potential to further damage relationships between local law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities.

“Those living in mixed-status families who are victims of crime, have witnessed crimes, or otherwise would wish to access law enforcement services, will be less willing to interact with law enforcement agencies that are sworn to protect and serve them,” the NCAE said. “We can scarcely afford to sow greater mistrust and fear in our communities, and we adamantly oppose any bill that seeks to do so.”

HB 370 has been stalled in the Senate since early April. It was referred to the committee on rules, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.