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You know North Carolina has jumped off the cliff into the abyss when even two conservative figures with close ties to the John Locke Foundation are deriding the latest budget and tax policy choices made by state leaders.

Here, for instance, is longtime Locke Foundation Board member Assad Meymandi in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Some 60 years ago, the founding fathers of the new North Carolina – transforming an agrarian society into an educational, technical and industrial state – folks like the late Bill Friday, Archie Davis, Gov. Luther Hodges and others saw the future salvation of our beloved state by heavily investing in education.

Their efforts have produced, among other things, a very strong UNC system of 16 campuses, parallel with the creation of the incomparable network of community colleges. They also advocated a strong N.C. Symphony, N.C. Museum of Art and other cultural and artistic institutions to attract educated and culturally inclined people to the state. Investing in education has paid off. N.C. economy has thrived because of its excellent public universities. UNC-Chapel Hill alone brings in annually around $900 million in research money and grants. It is truly frightening to see what the legislature is doing to the budgets of UNC system, N.C. community college system and UNC-TV. Read More

Last night, the DREAMers did it again. They took a hopeful message and their own personal stories to a new audience, asking members of the Winston-Salem City Council to support a resolution on in-state tuition for North Carolina high school graduates, regardless of immigration status. The DREAMers keep insisting that our public policies must reflect our deepest values of fairness and equal opportunity, showing that the power of people is stronger than inhumane laws and a broken immigration system. Read More

Colorado joined a growing number of states (16 in total) yesterday in recognizing the importance of an affordable post-secondary education to all their residents, regardless of immigration status. The Governor signed legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from state high schools the ability to attend state colleges at the in-state tuition rate.

Meanwhile, a similar proposal in North Carolina is languishing in the Rules Committee, which means young people like Marco Cervantes can’t afford college.

Charging the same tuition rates to all residents is a great way to invest in our state and in our future workforce. The higher tuition rate often charged immigrants—in Colorado the out of state rate is three times in-state tuition—is a barrier for many students and a drain on the economy.  That is because it is increasingly necessary to have some kind of post-secondary degree to attain a family-sustaining job and secure middle-class status.

Today is a great day to call your state reps to voice support for HB 904 and in-state tuition equality. Also, sign the petition here.

As one of the bill sponsors in Colorado noted:  “in Colorado the doors are open and the dream is alive.”

Can North Carolina say the same thing?

Frank Bruni of the New York Times had a thoughtful column about the future of American higher education over the weekend entitled “Questioning the Mission of College.” It is a balanced piece that explores the debate between those who want public higher education to be about preparing people for employment and those who say that it has to be about more than that.  

In it, Bruni cites Governor McCrory’s controversial — some would say anti-intellectual — comments from earlier this year as exemplifying the new, conservative, “jobs first” point of view. He then goes on:

“How practical versus idealistic should the approach to college be? I’m somewhat torn, and past columns have reflected that. I applaud proposals to give young people better information about how various fields of study match up with the job market and about projected returns on their investments in college. And for students who want college to be an instant pivot into a job with decent pay, a nudge toward certain disciplines makes excellent sense.

But college is about more than that, Read More

As legislators get back to work this week crafting their version of the state budget, the head of the UNC system is downplaying the prospect of closing one or more of the state’s 17 campuses to save money.

UNC System President Tom Ross say the idea would save the state less money than one might think – as closing one campus would only increase the demands on another campus. Ross says the state would then have the cost of repairing many of these large buildings before they could be put on the market.

Forsysth County Senator Pete Brunstetter first floated the idea of consolidating campuses last month as a way of saving the state millions of dollars.

Ross tells N.C. Policy Watch that while they are willing to study Brunstetter’s idea, it’s unlikely to yield the big savings lawmakers are hoping to find.

President Ross also tells Policy Watch that he has grave concerns another 5% budget cut, as proposed by Governor McCrory, will impact their ability to  provide high-quality educational opportunities to the state’s residents and assist in North Carolina’s economic recovery.

To hear a portion of Ross’s weekend radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below. Or, visit the Radio Interview section of the website to download a podcast of the full interview.

Also be sure to check out our recent interviews with Diane Ravitch and BTC policy analyst Allan Freyer.

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