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Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

There was once a time in the United States (and not that long ago) in which the idea of guaranteeing every American the opportunity to obtain a free public education all the way through college was a widely — even universally — shared  dream. In the mid-20th Century, states throughout the country worked hard to expand their community colleges and universities and to keep tuition and fees to a bare minimum. Republicans and Democrats were on board. Here in North Carolina, we even enshrined this important value in our state constitution.

And then, in the latter part of the century, the  anti-government, tax-cutting Right reared its backward-looking head. Fueled by millions from reactionary corporate oligarchs, these ideologues commenced a crusade against “government schools” and progressive taxation and within a few decades, thousands of once nearly-free colleges and universities were charging huge, debt-inducing sums to attend.

Now, President Obama, much to his credit, is pushing back against this destructive trend with his proposal to establish a national program — based on work in Tennessee — to make community college free to all students who meet certain requirements. It is an inspired and overdue proposal.

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, the ideologues are pushing back with absurd and hateful blather about “giveaways” and “freebies.” Listen to Louisiana Governor Booby Jindal as quoted in an editorial in this morning’s Wilmington Star News:

“Why stop there?” he said. “Why not have the government buy a car and a house for everyone?”

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. When supposedly serious elected officials equate providing access to public education with giving people free houses and cars, the national political debate has truly sunk to a new low.

As the Star News noted with admirable restraint in response to Jindal: Read More

Commentary

Higher Ed.jpgAny outsider trying to grasp the essence of the ideological debate in modern America in 2015 would do well to look at the two competing takes on President Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college affordable to all Americans.

On the progressive, forward-looking side there are views like the one’s expressed in this morning’s Charlotte Observer editorial:

“President Obama’s proposal to give free tuition to community college students acknowledges a clear shift in the relationship between education and employment: A high school education is no longer enough to ensure a good chance at a decent job….

In states with tight budgets, such as North Carolina, that’s a potentially steep bill. But Gov. Pat McCrory has been a vocal supporter of community colleges, and legislators should recognize the payoff of this investment.

It’s no different, really, from the principles that have long supported K-12 public education. When children graduate from high school, they help themselves and their communities thrive. The jobs they want are changing, however. We need to change, too.”

And on the nay-saying, backward-looking, stuck-in-the-mud side there are views like this borderline offensive blog post on a local conservative group’s blog entitled “Time to Grab Some More ‘Free Stuff’ From the President”:

“It’s amazing how much ‘free’ stuff costs these days — so much so that President Obama declined to put a price tag on the ‘free’ community college prize package he offered up this week to ‘anyone who’s willing to work for it.’ Let’s see now. If someone is ‘willing to work for it,’ how about saving the money earned while ‘working for it’ and paying the tab for tuition? Evidently taking responsibility for one’s future doesn’t qualify as ‘working for it’ when it comes to a leftists such as President Obama.

News

A working group of UNC’s Board of Governors will be meeting tomorrow and Thursday to hear presentations from 34 centers and institutes from across the university system.

This week’s meetings is part of a system-wide evaluation of academic centers and institutes by the board of governors, and a final report will make recommendations about whether any centers should be dissolved or have state funding reduced.

The meetings, which are open to the public, begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Spangler Center, UNC General Administration Building, at 910 Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill.

The state legislature paved the way for up to $15 million in cuts in last year’s budget by requiring that the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors and campus leaders “shall consider reducing State funds for centers and institutions, speaker series, and other nonacademic activities.” (Click here for more background on the review.)

Several of the centers scheduled to make presentations this week include groups that provide services or study issues affecting minority or disenfranchised groups of North Carolina residents. Those include groups like the Center for New North Carolinians at University of North Carolina-Greensboro and the Center for Civil Rights; the Sonya Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History and the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, all on the Chapel Hill campus.

 

The schedule of presentations is below:

 

Centers Institutes Working Group Agenda Dec 10 and 11.pdf by NC Policy Watch


N.C. Policy Watch will be at the meetings Wednesday and Thursday, and you can get updates via Twitter at @SarahOvaska.

Commentary

UNCIn case you missed it over the weekend, ECU English professor Robert Siegel made a compelling case in Raleigh’s News & Observer for a more energetic resistance from the higher education community against the sustained attack being waged by the state’s conservative political leadership. In particular, Siegel faults UNC administrators — saying they’ve “confused access with influence.” He points to the way Wake County’s public education community fought back against the hostile takeover engineered by conservatives a few years back:

“When schools were attacked in Wake County, an outraged citizenry packed school board meetings, demonstrated on the streets of Raleigh and committed civil disobedience. That public outcry translated into door to door campaigning and phone calling that resulted in defeating five out of five board members and returning the schools to a mainstream course.”

He concludes this way:

“UNC administrators all the way up to the president and Board of Governors need to get out from behind their desks and get away from their interminable meetings. Talk to the people, not just students on your campuses. That’s preaching to the choir. Get out into the smaller towns and more rural counties. Hold town meetings. Explain to citizens the importance of higher education. Many of their sons and daughters are the first in their families to attend a college or university. Explain what this state will become if higher education fails.”

Now is the time to speak truth to power. Rent a bus and, in the spirit of great civil rights activists, speak truth to power. That would be a bus we would be proud to ride.

Read the entire op-ed by clicking here.

Commentary

UNCThree UNC system schools will now be able to admit students with lower SAT scores if their grade point average (GPA) is higher than required. The three year pilot program, approved by the UNC Board of Governors on Friday, will allow North Carolina Central, Elizabeth City State and Fayetteville State Universities to admit students on a sliding scale where the lowest admissions requirement would be an SAT score of 750 and a GPA of 3.0.

The schools selected for the program are all historically black colleges and all suffered enrollment declines when the UNC system raised minimum SAT (and GPA) requirements from 700 to 750 in 2011 and then again to 800 in 2013.

According to data released earlier this month by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, African American high school seniors scored lower on the SATs than any other race. This is consistent with African American students performance on the SATs for the past twenty years. Yet, historically black colleges tend to always require SAT scores whereas many predominately white universities have made it optional.

One factor that can affect SAT scores is a family’s economic status. Read More