Phi Beta Cons

North Carolina Has a Chance to Find a University Reformer

In recent months and years, developments within the University of North Carolina system – such as the academic fraud scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill and the closure of three campus centers and institutes that had more to do with left-wing political advocacy than academics – have made national headlines and initiated a broad conversation about the need for higher education reform in North Carolina and other states. But the reality is that in North Carolina, problems within the university system have been festering for decades. 

Since the system was formally organized in the early 1970s, ideological bias has become rampant and university leaders and politicians in the Tar Heel State have adopted an expansive view of higher education – one that seeks to increase economic and social progress via the state’s taxpayer-funded universities. And so there has been an uptick in the creation of dubious public-private partnerships between universities, corporations, and the government. And professors and other officials have created trendy courses and degree programs that spread a certain worldview rather than advance knowledge and improve students’ educational experiences.

Unfortunately, in those instances, the general student population and the public usually end up losing, because such pet projects tend to benefit only a small group of university affiliates and entrenched interests. 

But all hope is not lost in North Carolina. There are real opportunities for reform, one of which will come later this year when the UNC system’s Board of Governors selects the next system president. In today’s Pope Center feature, Jenna Ashley Robinson, center president, Jay Schalin, the center’s director of policy analysis, and I discuss what presidential qualities and philosophy would most benefit students and the general public. Our title may provide a hint: “The Next UNC President Should Be a Reformer, Not a Caretaker.” Read more here.

Jesse SaffronJesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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