Phi Beta Cons

Shiny New Buildings Beat Fixing up the Aging Ones

On Tuesday, North Carolina voters will decide whether to support a $2 billion bond issue. Half the funds borrowed will go to the University of North Carolina system and its 16 college campuses (plus one high school).

If the voters pass the bond issue, as they are expected to, it will be Christmas in March. As the Raleigh News & Observer pointed out, “If voters say yes, NCCU [North Carolina Central University] would get $30 million toward a business school. NCSU [North Carolina State University] would get $75 million for an engineering building and $85 million for a plant sciences facility. UNC-Chapel Hill would get $68 million toward a new medical school building.”

Okay, we have to assume that the university system isn’t much bothered by threats from the advent of online education, the supposed limitations on the state’s financial support, and the decline (or at best stability) of enrollment. Expanding bricks and mortar is still a goal.

The News & Observer made another point. The schools have enormous maintenance backlogs.

The leader [three chancellors] said constructing four new buildings for Triangle campuses won’t change what the chancellors described as a large backlog of renovation and repairs. Carol Folt said UNC has $1 billion in building needs; [Randy] Woodson said deferred maintenance at NCSU is $650 million.

Where is that money supposed to come from?

The bond issue looks like just another example of a time-worn political policy: It’s always more fun for politicians and their favored constituents to attend the ribbon-cutting for handsome new buildings than to cover maintenance costs. Build up enough maintenance needs, and you’ll have to tear down and build new buildings — financed by a bond issue, of course.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

Most Popular

The Rural Way

Almost every national Election Night reveals the same old red/blue map. The country geographically is a sea of red. The coasts and small areas along the southern border and around the Great Lakes remain blue atolls. Yet when the maps are recalibrated for population rather than area, the blue areas blow up, ... Read More

The Rural Way

Almost every national Election Night reveals the same old red/blue map. The country geographically is a sea of red. The coasts and small areas along the southern border and around the Great Lakes remain blue atolls. Yet when the maps are recalibrated for population rather than area, the blue areas blow up, ... Read More
Elections

It’s Only ‘Free and Fair’ When We Win

Indeed, this is astonishing: https://twitter.com/felixsalmon/status/1331295033325219840 In 2018, after two years of media spinning tales about shady Russian infiltrators in our government, 67 percent of Democrats believed that Putin’s gremlins had bored into our voting machines and altered the outcome ... Read More
Elections

It’s Only ‘Free and Fair’ When We Win

Indeed, this is astonishing: https://twitter.com/felixsalmon/status/1331295033325219840 In 2018, after two years of media spinning tales about shady Russian infiltrators in our government, 67 percent of Democrats believed that Putin’s gremlins had bored into our voting machines and altered the outcome ... Read More

The Coup That Wasn’t

Donald Trump is not done challenging the results of the 2020 election in court, and he is by no means done complaining. But there will be no “coup.” Any prospect of Trump remaining in office without a legal process that declares him the recipient of more legal votes in the decisive states has now evaporated. ... Read More

The Coup That Wasn’t

Donald Trump is not done challenging the results of the 2020 election in court, and he is by no means done complaining. But there will be no “coup.” Any prospect of Trump remaining in office without a legal process that declares him the recipient of more legal votes in the decisive states has now evaporated. ... Read More
Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
U.S.

The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash

The backlash is coming. It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions. We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ... Read More
U.S.

The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash

The backlash is coming. It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions. We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ... Read More