Monday, March 25, 2013
Gov. McCrory's proposals places North Carolina's HBCU's at risk
Citizens of North Carolina should pay close attention to moves being made by Governor Pat McCrory. If implemented, access to higher education will become more complicated for those who need it the most.
Gov. McCrory, and the Republican controlled state legislature, is positioned to alter the way UNC System in a way that could dramatically impact the systems historically black colleges and universities and schools in low density areas. The plan is being pitched as a cost saving measure, but will send a significant number of North Carolinians to receive recently reduced unemployment benefits.
Gov. McCrory’s budget recommends $138 million in cuts to the UNC system next fiscal year. The proposed cuts follow the $400 million in budget reduction the system absorbed in the budget two years ago. When factoring the cuts from the previous budget, the loss to the system is $241 million.
Gov. McCrory’s budget plans to spend $63 million over a two year period on the system’s Strategic Directions initiatives. The plan seeks to align educational needs with the marketplace. It’s the talk related to the plan that has many troubled about the future of the UNC system. Discussions about downsizing and merging schools have led to concerns that a few of North Carolina’s HBCU’s are at risk of being closed or merged with other schools in the system.
Most at risk is Elizabeth City State University. The plan could result in the school being downsized to a community college or merged with another school. Also at risk is the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Pembroke serves a large Native American population, and closing the school would result in making it more difficult for students in the area to find a place to attend.
Pembroke may merge with Fayetteville State University. There’s talk of merging North Carolina A&T University with the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. The common theme is an attack on North Carolina’s HBCU’s.
The concern follows recent appointments to the UNC Board of Governors. The appointment of a majority of Republicans with business backgrounds has fueled concerns that the system will be managed like a business charged with the mission to downsize to maximize the bottom line interest. Also missing are members with strong ties to the systems HBCU’s. The lack of diversity on the board exposes the HBCU’s to major changes.
The plan will have grave implications to those students who seek to enroll in programs targeted for being unessential in a changing economy. Students seeking a liberal arts education may be forced to consider options outside the public education system. Students with the resources to attend competitive private liberal arts schools will not be impacted by the change. Those students in search of training outside the purview of the UNC master plan will be forced to make options that may not fit their area of interest.
There are serious questions regarding the motives behind proposed changes. The state expects 3.6 percent revenue growth next year. The system is not in dire need of radical changes at this time. Republicans are intent on raising discussions devoid of significant reason to justify the need. It can be assumed that this is an attack on North Carolina’s public education system, and, more specifically, an attack to undermine efforts to attract more minorities into higher education.
This is certainly an assault on liberal arts education. It will result in the loss of jobs and will negatively impact communities with economies dependent of a university or college. It will shift the way we view education and force students into making decisions rooted in economics versus the desire to follow their true interest. Many will conclude there is nothing wrong with forcing students to make practical decisions.
Efforts to make NC system a glorified technical school should be fought. The key is in providing options for those seeking to match their skills with interest. The goal should always be to grant people a place to celebrate history, embrace culture and connect with the best we have as a state.
This is not a business. We are not making workers. Hopefully, we are preparing all students to think.