Hundreds of UNC health professionals, med students and faculty push for compromise on Medicaid expansion

Hundreds of UNC medical and nursing students, health professionals, faculty and alumni are asking the head of UNC Health to push the N.C. Health Association to compromise in the current debate over Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.

In a letter delivered Wednesday morning, the group asks Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health, to consider leaving the N.C. Healthcare Association if it will not soften its position on loosening Certificate of Need (CON) laws. The N.C. General Assembly’s GOP majority insist on changes to those laws before passing legislation to expand Medicaid. Loosening them could provide more competition for hospitals, changes for telemedicine and more independence for advanced practice nurses. While the association has supported medicaid expansion for years, it has stopped short of negotiating on CON laws to achieve it.

UNC Health professionals, medical students, faculty and alumni are pushing for negotiating on laws that could increase hospital competition in order to achieve Medicaid expansion.

“Our current political reality is that the only Medicaid expansion bill that can pass the NC legislature has to include CON reform,” the letter to Burks reads. “NCHA’s refusal to negotiate on CON laws effectively mounts opposition to Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, despite the fact that the current CON provisions have done demonstrably little to reduce costs, increase access to care, or advance health equity. Ample evidence shows that Medicaid expansion achieves all three of these goals, and thus should be prioritized.”

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has also called for compromising on certificate of need laws in order to achieve Medicaid expansion, saying it has taken too long for Republicans to agree on the need for expansion and industry lobbies shouldn’t stand in the way now that it is in reach.

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Confronting history, Congress studies addition of lynching sites to national park system

First lady Jill Biden urges students at N.C. A&T to consider teaching careers

Miguel Cardona

U.S. first lady Jill Biden on Monday urged students attending historically Black N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro to consider a teaching career.

Surrounded by elementary school students from the university’s new Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (S.T.E.M.)-themed Aggie Academy, Biden said students of color deserve teachers who “look like them and who can understand their paths.”

Jill Biden

All students benefit when schools employ teachers from diverse backgrounds, Biden said.

“To better serve all of our students, our classrooms need diverse perspectives and the chance to learn from teachers of every single background and that’s why we’re here today to recruit you,” Biden said.

The first lady is a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College.

N.C. A&T is one of three minority-serving colleges recently selected to partner with the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program in hopes of increasing the number of students of color who train to become teachers. The other two are Fayetteville State University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. They joined five predominately white colleges and universities already offering the program.

Teaching Fellows is a merit-based, loan-forgiveness program that provides up to $8,250 annually for up to four years to students who agree to teach in the fields of special education or S.T.E.M. in public schools.

Biden acknowledged the challenges of recruiting teachers due to expensive student loans, low salaries, large class sizes and safety concerns.

Many educators have made the tough decision to walk away from the profession, Biden said.

“If we want to add more bright, talented people into this field, if we want educators to be able to do what they do best, we have to give them the support that they or you all deserve,” Biden said. “We have to come to places like North Carolina A&T and say, we need you.”

Last month, North Carolina began the school year short by a reported figure of 4,400 teachers.  There is a growing national debate about the severity of a national teacher shortage and its causes and whether one really exists.

The first lady said teachers make the best recruiters.

“We have to use our teacher voice to make people listen and let the world know what this work means to us and how we change lives every single day,” Biden said.

Biden was joined by the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to kick off the Department of Education’s “Road to Success Bus Tour.” The week-long, multi-state road trip will showcase the ways school communities are helping students recover from the pandemic and thrive. Biden and Cardona also visited Tennessee on Monday to highlight ways states and districts are recruiting and preparing qualified educators into the classroom.

Cardona said too many students will be denied the opportunity to reach their full potential because of who they are and where they live. Read more

The week’s top stories: Arsenic in NC well water, the bedeviling issue of merit pay, and a bill codifying same-sex marriage nears critical vote in U.S. Senate

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Elizabeth City State University records new eight year peak for students, continuing recovery from enrollment struggles

Elizabeth City State University recorded 2,149 students this academic year, the school announced this week – the highest student count in eight years.

ECSU, the smallest of the UNC System’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) faced enrollment struggles since its peak of about 3,000 students, but has recently seen a period of growth, with greater success recruiting both in-state and out of state first-year students, transfer and graduate students.

Chancellor Karrie Dixon attributed the continued growth to the NC Promise program, which offers  $500 per semester at four UNC System campuses – Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University.

“ECSU’s steady expansion in key demographic populations proves that the power of NC Promise tuition program is helping us reach more scholars who desire to earn a highly competitive degree at an affordable cost,” said Dixon in a statement on the enrollment increase. “We are welcoming highly gifted scholars who possess strong academic credentials and are laser focused on their collegiate success. We are also attracting students looking to continue and complete their education, which leads to economic mobility for our graduates locally, regionally and in North Carolina.”

Elizabeth City State University

The student population at ECSU increased by 4.6% from the 2022 to the 2023 academic year, with growth seen in most student categories. The university increased its first year students both from in-state and out of state for the fifth consecutive year. Sixty five percent of first year students were from North Carolina. The school also saw growth among first-year students from out of state, a trend the UNC Board of Governors was hoping to see continue when it raised the cap on out-of-state students at the system’s HBCUs.

Last year, the UNC Board of Governors raised that cap to 25% at all five of the system’s HBCUs.

In April, the system’s board of governors approved raising the cap to 35% at N.C. A&T and N.C. Central University and to 50 percent at Elizabeth City State University. The cap at Fayetteville State University and Winston-Salem State University will remain at 25%.

Graduate students at ECSU also increased 20 percent over the 2021 academic year to 116. That’s the highest number the school has recorded in a decade.

“This year, we are seeing how both the value and demand of the ECSU education are bringing new Vikings to our community,” said Dr. Farrah Ward, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “Aviation Science, our signature program, is the top intended major for first-time freshman, along with Business Administration, Psychology, Biology and Sports Management.”

In April ECSU announced it would provide a one-time $1,000 housing grant to each student living on campus in the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters, capitalizing on a recent survey of U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard data that found the campus to be the most affordable HBCU in the nation.

Late last month the university announced it had received more than $100,000 in grants for two library-related projects. The university will use the money to update the digital inventory and self-checkout systems at its G.R. Little Library as well as becoming a satellite office for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s work digitizing historical documents, photographs and newspapers.