North Carolinas Higher Education System: Success or FailureReport as inadecuate

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Center for College Affordability and Productivity (NJ1)

North Carolina has long prided itself on what many perceive to be one of the finest systems of higher education in the country. Aside from having a number of nationally recognized private schools of distinction (e.g., Duke, Wake Forest, Davidson), the state has invested aggressively with public funds. State government appropriations for higher education in general have risen over time, even after adjusting for both considerable amounts of inflation and robust population growth. Higher appropriations were successfully promoted on the grounds that this will increase the access of students to college and enhance the state's economic condition. It is a point of pride among some politicians that North Carolina in modern times has tended to outspend peer states and the nation as a whole on higher education. However, the authors' objective analysis of the data suggests that another interpretation of higher education public policy is possible. Despite the massive increases in taxpayer support, the state lags behind both the national average and most neighboring states in the proportion of adults with college degrees. Tuition costs have soared. A huge and growing portion of resources have been devoted to noninstructional activities. A lack of transparency prevents some of the most elementary questions from being answered. In general, both the colleges and general public are clueless as to the answers to these questions. Thus, one could say that the higher education system lacks transparency and accountability, and is increasingly costly and inefficient. Productivity is hard to measure without good measures of outcomes, but it is more likely falling rather than rising in North Carolina higher education. The purpose of this study is to present factual evidence suggesting that the system of universities is deserving of greater public scrutiny. The evidence also shows areas where reform is needed the most--cost containment, for example. The authors will make some suggestions of areas where cost containment might legitimately occur. Higher education currently lacks the incentives or motivation to make the vigorous changes needed to make higher education a positive force for change and progress in the Tar Heel State. (Contains 33 figures, 7 tables, and 13 notes.) [This study was supported by the John William Pope Foundation.]

Descriptors: Higher Education, Educational Finance, Evidence, Population Growth, Costs, Private Schools, Public Policy, State Government, Tuition, Educational Quality, State Aid, Access to Education, Economic Progress, Taxes, College Graduates, Accountability, Productivity, Outcomes of Education, Incentives, Change Agents

Center for College Affordability and Productivity. 1055 Thomas Jefferson Street NW Suite L 26, Washington, DC 20007. Tel: 202-621-0536; e-mail: ccap[at]; Web site:

Author: Gillen, Andrew; Vedder, Richard



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