Education, Higher Ed, NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s cuts to higher education are shortchanging future generations

North Carolina’s inadequate public investment in higher education over the last decade has contributed to rising tuition prices, often leaving students with little choice but to take on more debt or give up on their dreams of going to college. The problem is especially serious for Black, Latinx, and low-income students.

North Carolina is one of 45 states that spent less per student in the 2018 school year than in 2008 – even as the economy and state budgets have returned to pre-recession levels, according to Unkept Promises: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Access and Equity, a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

2008 – 2018 Cuts to Higher Education Funding (adjusted for inflation):

  • North Carolina Average: 18.6 percent per student or $2,357 per student
  • S. Average: 16 percent per student or $1,502 per student

Cuts to higher education have helped drive up the cost of attending public colleges and universities. Between 2008 and 2018, the average tuition at public four-year institutions in North Carolina grew by 45% or $2,293– outpacing the national average growth of 36 percent.

Americans’ slow income growth has worsened the situation. While the average tuition bill increased by 36 percent between 2008 and 2018, median incomes grew by just over 2 percent. Nationally, the average tuition at a four-year public college accounted for 16.5 percent of median household income in 2017, up from 14 percent in 2008.

In North Carolina, the costs of a college education represents 14 percent of median household income for all North Carolina families, 19 percent of median household income for Black North Carolina families and 18 percent of median household income for Latinx North Carolina families. Read more

Higher Ed

Former UNC BOG members speak out on good governance, take current members to task

In a rare move, a group of ten former members of the UNC Board of Governors penned a letter this week taking current board members to task for what they describe as “clearly bad governance.”

The letter, posted Wednesday on the Higher Education Works website, criticized the board for disregarding the UNC President’s recommended candidate for the Chancellor’s post at Western Carolina University. Instead current board member Tom Fetzer, who had some interest in the WCU job for himself, sought out a third party to do a background check on the recommended candidate.

Former members also expressed their displeasure in ongoing efforts to micromanage and undermine the decisions of system President Margaret Spellings.

Here’s an excerpt:

A lot of very smart people have judged our University System to be the most valuable asset this state has. Our system of higher education is respected nationally as one of the best. It is what has set this state apart for decades. It has helped make us the forward-thinking state we have always been considered. Without it, we would not have the Research Triangle Park, one of the most successful research parks in the world, fostered by visionary leaders in business and academia.

Unfortunately, it appears our Board of Governors has become increasingly politicized, and some members are conflicted. Politics has no place in the selection of members, and any conflicts of interest must be avoided. Boards must have a high level of independence and professionalism to be effective.

What we saw last month was not good governance. Our state, our President, our faculty, our students, our entire University System deserve better. What we witnessed will negatively affect the quality of people willing to come to our Universities as Chancellors, faculty and staff.

Good governance has many positive aspects. Maybe the most important is to attract and retain great talent and leadership. We ask our legislators and our Board of Governors to remember that they serve the people of North Carolina. They can and should do better.

The letter is signed by the following former members of the UNC Board of Governors: Paul Fulton, Ann Goodnight, Fred Eshelman, Derick Close, Brad Wilson, Jim Deal, Peaches Gunter Blank, Leroy Lail, Phil Phillips and Jim Babb.

You can read the full letter here.

Current Board Chair Harry Smith tells the Raleigh News & Observer’s Jane Stancill that the assessment is unfair:

“I thought it was very unfortunate that they decided to take the attack route,” Smith said, adding, “I don’t think Paul Fulton and Higher Ed Works should chastise 28 members that are working hard, based on a handful that got into a tiff.”

For more on recent actions by the Board of Governors, follow reporter Joe Killian’s coverage here.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings

Higher Ed

Texas selects Milliken to lead university system

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to include comment from a UNC system spokesman.

James Milliken

On Saturday, the University of Texas System named James Milliken, the former chancellor for City University of New York, as the sole choice to lead their system.

“We are honored to announce Mr. Milliken as our sole finalist for this critical leadership role,” Regents’ Chairman Sara Martinez Tucker said. “His experiences in higher education leadership are deep and broad, and he has very effectively guided university systems that have many of the characteristics and strategic aspirations embedded throughout UT’s academic and health institutions. Moreover, he has enjoyed strong support from elected officials, students, and campus leaders in his previous posts, all of whom described him as someone they could count on in times of great opportunity and challenges.”

Under Texas state law, the university governing boards must name finalists for chancellor at least 21 days before making the appointment final.

The Austin American-Statesman reported last week that UNC System President Margaret Spellings’ name was floated for consideration.

On Sunday, Josh Ellis, Associate Vice President for Media Relations for the UNC system, denied reports that Spellings was ever a candidate for the position in Texas.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil and President Trump’s one-time Secretary of State, was another name on UT’s short list, according to published reports.

Spellings, became president of the UNC system in March of 2016, and has been focused in recent months on data modernization and talent retention among faculty and staff of the 17 campus UNC system.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, Education, Environment, Higher Ed, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Over widespread opposition, DEQ approves key water quality permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

For more than a  year, environmental and citizens’ groups have battled against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But today, the NC Department of Environmental Quality granted a key permit that will allow the project to begin its 160-mile route through the state.

DEQ’s Division of Water Resources announced today that it is approving the 401 water quality permit after eight months’ of review. DWR had asked for additional information five times before finalizing the permit.

Duke Energy co-owns the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with Dominion Energy. The pipeline will begin at a fracking operation in West Virginia, continue through Virginia and North Carolina, and possibly extend through South Carolina.

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said in a prepared statement that the agency “left no stone unturned in our exhaustive eight-month review of every aspect of the 401 application. Our job doesn’t and with the granting of the permit but continues as we hold the company accountable to live up to its commitments.”[Read more…]

Bonus reads:

2. Class size crisis, school inequities highlight top 10 education issues for 2018

An impending class size crisis and growing inequities between rich and poor districts are the most important issues facing North Carolina public schools in 2018, according to an annual list released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Public School Forum of N.C.

The list—prepared by the Raleigh-based policy and research outfit—arrives with state legislators still negotiating the terms of a potential respite for North Carolina’s 115 school districts, brought on by a 2016 order to cut K-3 class sizes that lacks sufficient funding to make it happen, critics say.

“The class size mandate is affecting every single school in North Carolina,” says Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Public School Forum. “The ripple effect—up to ballooning classes in grades 4-12, to the risk of losing classes in upper grades, to the very real fact that there’s no way our schools can meet this mandate in seven months and also keep our arts and P.E. teachers and come up with several hundred classrooms that don’t exist today— it is a self-inflicted crisis.” [Read more…]

3. The “double-bunkings” continue: An analysis of the G.A.’s latest proposed judicial maps

How many maps does it take to hit the sweet spot when it comes to judicial redistricting?

Your guess is as good as anyone’s. Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly, Montgomery) unveiled another round of judicial and prosecutorial maps this week, and, like the others, he didn’t include any substantive information about the impact on judges and the people they serve.

This is the seventh version of House Bill 717 that lawmakers have entertained as a possible plan for redistricting judges and prosecutors. It’s the third set of maps that NC Policy Watch has taken on to analyze incumbency data.

There have been three different committees formed since the first time Burr made his maps public – one in the House, one in the Senate and one joint committee.

Members from each group have asked Burr, legislative staff and other key map players multiple times for incumbency information so that they could accurately assess the effect of changing judicial boundaries. So far, no one in an official General Assembly capacity has provided lawmakers with that information. [Read more…]

Bonus read:

4. Bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake: Why work requirements for Medicaid do not represent a reasonable healthcare compromise

It’s one of the great and bitter ironies of our modern American policy debates that it is conservatives who are often the chief architects of the largest and least useful government bureaucracies.

No, this is not intended as a dig at the military or our departments of transportation.

Think about it for a minute: What is the chief function of our public bureaucracies? As anyone who has ever paid a visit to their local Social Security office or argued with a school secretary over a student’s eligibility for a reduced price lunch can attest, the answer (at least when it comes to safety net programs) is to jealously guard and carefully mete out public resources. If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid such experiences, think for a moment of your health insurance company and all of the people and bureaucratic process and jargon it takes to assess your occasional claims. Now, think of what that process would be like if you were a low-income person with limited education trying to access some basic assistance that might keep you from becoming homeless.[Read more…]

5. UNC Board of Governors squares off over new healthcare partnership

A proposed partnership between Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Health Care is further dividing an already fractured UNC Board of Governors.

When the board meets Friday morning, it will be amid cross-accusations of illegal and unethical behavior over the proposal, which would create one of the country’s largest healthcare systems.

At issue: a potential consolidation that would create a new UNC Health Care/Carolinas HealthCare joint operation that would include more than 50 hospitals and employ more than 90,000 people.

The new venture, first proposed in August and expected to be finalized early this year, would be overseen by an independent board. But in their role overseeing UNC’s medical school, the board of governors have hotly debated the deal and whether they can block it if they find it not in the system’s best interest. [Read more…]

*** Coming-up Tuesday, a very special conversation on the unfunded class-size mandate and education policy. Register today.