Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 55: Community Colleges Need More Funds, Consultant Says

N.C. Community Colleges will need upward of $1.2 billion for capital expansion if they are to meet projected enrollment growth for 2000-2005, according to Kent Caruthers, a consultant with MGT of America, Inc. in Tallahassee, FL. The recommendation is part of a preliminary report on the North Carolina Community College System’s (NCCCS) funding needs that was presented to Board members last week. Since 1996, MGT has worked with Community College officials to assess the needs of NCCCS and consider ways to approach the General Assembly in asking for more funds.

The cumulative result of this effort has been nearly $150 million in new funds for the system. Community College officials hope that the latest report will bring similar results. State board members, however, say there are several problems with the report that must be addressed before numbers are presented to the General Assembly in May. The new construction estimates, for example, do not consider inflation and discount the factors like distance learning, which could substantially alter current construction estimates. NCCCS President Martin Lancaster defended the decision as a deliberate effort to offer a conservative estimate of the system’s needs in the hopes that the estimate would gain favor with the General Assembly.

But board member Tom King said discounting inflation and using a five-year enrollment projection was like comparing apples to oranges. He noted that the University of North Carolina system uses a 10-year projection, not a five-year projection, and accounts for inflation. Briggs said that the final report would account for inflation. The absence of distance learning as a factor was also cause for debate. “I think there’s a fad if not popular belief that distance learning is a substitute for bricks and mortar,” one board member said. Caruthers said that distance learning could “definitely save space” and suggested that the system develop a more formal process for addressing the funding requirements for such technology.

NCCCS will present the study to the General Assembly’s Joint Select Committee on Higher Education Facilities Needs on Feb. 28 at 10 a.m.

College Seniors “Don’t Know Much About History”

A recent survey of seniors at America’s top colleges and Universities reveals that more than 80 percent are ignorant of the most basic elements of American history. Among the elite institutions surveyed were Duke University and Davidson College. Less than 22 percent could identify “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people” as a line from the Gettysburg Address. More than one-third failed to identify the U.S. Constitution as establishing the division of power in American government. Just over half identified the purpose of the Federalist Papers as an attempt to gain ratification of the Constitution.

Only 22 percent of the 55 colleges and universities surveyed require their students to take a course in history. Neither Davidson or Duke requires their students to take American History. At 78 percent of the institutions surveyed, students are not required to take history at all. The results were compiled by the Roper Organization at Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut and are part of a new study called “Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.” The American Council of Trustees and Alumni released the report.