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A small group of state education and business leaders met today in Chapel Hill to have initial talks about what the role of higher education is in the state, and whether it should continue to expand.

The UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Initatives is tasked with coming up with a five-year strategy of where the 17-school systems should head in light of the rocky economy, a legislature less included to invest heavily in the schools and rising tuition costs.

The makeup of the 31-member committee has drawn criticism, with heavy representation from the business committee and two of the state’s biggest conservative political funders, Fred Eshelman of Wilmington and Art Pope of Raleigh, serving on it.

Eshelman chaired Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting, where a smaller group of members gathered to hash out a plan for how the larger committee should approach the five strategic goals – setting degree attainment numbers; strengthening academic quality; serving the people of North Carolina; maximizing efficiency and ensure the long-term financial stability of the UNC system.

The biggest source of differing opinion at Tuesday’s meeting centered around discussions about how many people in the state need or should go to college, and what degree attainment goal numbers the UNC system should have.  Read More

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With the recent advent of the new  UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions, there’s been a lot of controversy about the group’s inclusion of two right-wing millionaire businessmen: chain store magnate Art Pope of Raleigh and pharmaceuticals industry mogul, Fred Eshelman of Wilmington. Chris Fitzsimon has been reporting and commenting on this story frequently.

Interestingly, some observers — especially in the Wilmington area —  have expressed the opinion that while they support the criticisms of Pope, they disagree with attacks on Eshelman. In this narrative, Eshelman is conservative, but a good guy and BIG supporter of UNC who’s getting a bum rap by being  grouped with Pope. Eshelman, himself, has complained that his politics are not relevant to his involvement in the new committee.

A new story posted today by WRAL’s Mark Binker helps make clear, however, why that argument doesn’t wash.  Read More

Article IX, Section 9 of the North Carolina Constitution says the following:  

“The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”

Unfortunately, as this op-ed in today’s Raleigh News & Observer helps make plain, the requirement is quickly ceasing to have any real meaning as right-wing money bags like Board of Governors member Fred “Right Change” Eshelman do their worst to privatize higher education. 

As the piece notes:

“Eshelman is essentially transferring a radical political ideology directly into the governing board of the university. That, of course, was what his appointment was intended to do.”

Let’s hope North Carolinians wake up to this effort to drag down our universities before there’s nothing left to save.

Dr. Bill Friday, president emeritus of the UNC system, says North Carolina is at the point where it is violating the State Constitution, which states higher education should be offered as free as practicable.

In a weekend radio interview on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, Dr. Friday said it is time to draw a line on tuition hikes.

The 91-year-old, who served as the first president of the expanded UNC system, says continued cuts by the legislature have seriously hurt the institution.

At the same time, the trend of offsetting those cuts by raising tuition and fees has only discouraged young people from seeking higher education:

“One out of three families in North Carolina don’t gross $35,000 a year…the tragedy is these families don’t even apply anymore, see they have no resource base to work from,” explained Friday.

Friday believes the state’s lawmakers should have the courage to close billions of dollars in exemptions and tax loopholes rather than “whacking at” the budgets of North Carolina’s public schools and universities.

To hear a portion of Dr. Friday’s interview, click below. To hear the full segment (including this week’s other  interviews with Bob Etheridge and author Jeff Clements)  visit the Radio Interview section of the N.C. Policy Watch website.

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