Mar 062015
 

newsobserver

Published: March 6, 2015

Budget calls for UNC system and community colleges cuts

Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan would increase tuition at the state’s community colleges, give veterans in-state tuition rates and force the UNC system to find cuts of 2 percent, or about $50 million.

But the budget also provides new spending and $49 million for expected enrollment growth in the UNC system, so the overall university budget cut is 1.2 percent.

The “efficiency” reductions are left up to UNC system leaders, but they are barred from cutting financial aid. Five campuses are also exempt from the budget knife – Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, UNC Asheville, UNC School of the Arts and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

New university spending includes $8 million for East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, which is fighting for its survival. Elizabeth City State University, which has struggled with a decline in students, would get an additional $1.9 million for technology upgrades.

McCrory emphasized that he’s putting new money into funds aimed at startups and commercialization of university research. A proposed Venture Multiplier Fund would spend $15 million a year, and a university commercialization program would spend $7.5 million in the next two years to help move discoveries to market.

UNC President Tom Ross issued a statement saying he appreciated McCrory’s proposed commercialization funding and his recognition of the value of UNC’s research efforts.

Ross said the UNC system has worked hard on efficiency measures in recent years.

“We are disappointed to see an additional cut of 2% proposed and no salary raises for faculty and staff as the state’s economy continues to recover and grow,” Ross said.

Budget Director Lee Roberts said the overall reduction of $26 million amounts to a very small part of the university’s total budget.

The state’s community college system would see a $3 million decrease in enrollment funding to match a 1.6 percent drop in students from last year. But the system would receive $5 million to upgrade its College Information System, the central data system of student information and operations.

The budget would raise community college tuition by 5.5 percent. Tuition would climb from $72 per credit hour to $76 per credit hour, costing the average full-time student an additional $128 a year.

KEY STAT: The overall UNC system budget is reduced by $26 million, while the N.C. Community College System is down $13.6 million from last year.

DOWN ON PRIVATE FUNDRAISING: McCrory’s budget would limit the use of state dollars to $1 million at each campus for private fundraising efforts. That would affect 12 campuses and reduce university funding in that area by $18 million.

HOW LIKELY? It’s unclear whether the legislature will go for McCrory’s proposals for venture and commercialization spending that would boost university research.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

Share
Mar 062015
 

newyorktimes

Published March 5, 2015

A Former College Lineman Now on the Streets, Looking for Answers, and Help

Ryan Hoffman, a U.N.C. Football Player Two Decades Ago, Is Now Homeless

Hoffman NYT2

Hoffman gathering his blankets from where he slept in between the doors of a closed restaurant in Lakeland, Fla. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

 

Hoffman NYT1

A plaque showing Ryan Hoffman in 1997, during his senior year at North Carolina. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

By Juliet Macur

LAKELAND, Fla. — With sunset minutes away, the man in the neon yellow knit hat took his usual spot here at a busy intersection. Across from a Publix supermarket and on the edge of a Circle K parking lot, he sat against a streetlight holding a worn cardboard sign with dirt-stained hands that could easily palm a basketball.

“Lost Job. Laid Off. Homeless.”

Here was the man I had been looking for.

At the urging of his family, I had tracked him down after a string of texts to several prepaid cellphones kept — and lost — by this man, who is plagued with short-term memory problems. For weeks, I had wondered what he would be like and how many details he could remember from his former life, which he had abandoned — or which maybe had abandoned him? — years ago.

And now, here he was, looking forlorn in the fading light, his big, blank blue eyes beseeching drivers for a dollar or two. Each time cash appeared through a car window, he sprinted there, retrieved the bills with a “God bless,” and just about skipped back to his spot by the lamppost. “I really don’t want to do this,” he said, “but I have to. Gotta eat.”

His life wasn’t always like this. Nearly 20 years and more than 100 pounds ago, this panhandler in the yellow knit cap, Ryan Hoffman, was a hulking offensive lineman for a college football team ranked in the top 10, a starting player renowned for his toughness and durability. Now his old Levis are so big that even a belt on its ninth notch can’t keep them from sagging below his hips.

“Look, I’m still in tiptop physical shape and can probably run a marathon,” Hoffman said, the words tumbling out of a mouth missing a tooth that was knocked out in a street fight. “It’s my brain that keeps me from being a productive member of society. I’m physically very strong, but I’m mentally so weak. Something is wrong with me. I don’t know what it is, but I used to be normal, you know?

“I’m confident — well, I’m pretty sure — that football had something to do with it.”

Football’s toll on its participants is well established. We know about dozens of former N.F.L. players who were left with severe brain damage from repeated blows to the head. Their stories often contain disturbingly similar details — depression, substance abuse, memory loss, dementia — and their brain damage was always revealed posthumously.

But there are many more former players out there wondering if they are football’s next casualties. Most of those players are not famous. Most never made a dime off the game. They are relatively anonymous men who played the sport in college and only later, for some reason or another, have found themselves struggling in life.

Just like their N.F.L. counterparts, Hoffman and those former college players have been left to wonder: Did football do this? Are the hits to the head I took the reason for my decline? Or would I be in this condition even if I’d never played a down?

They might never know the answer, because a definitive answer might not exist.

Hoffman blames football for scrambling his brain, but at this point it is impossible to disentangle what could be football-related brain injuries from his subsequent drug use and possibly genetic mental illness. He simply cannot be sure. No one can.

He and players like him are faced with the same terrifying uncertainty as former pros. Yet none of them will benefit from the $765 million settlement the N.F.L. has agreed to pay to thousands of its former players, and few of them can expect much help.

Spun out of a college football system that makes billions of dollars for the N.C.A.A. and its member universities, these former college athletes are little more than collateral damage.

“Those are the players who are being left behind in this whole concussion debate and, unfortunately for some of them, it’s a life-or-death issue,” said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, the newly formed college players union. “But even if the N.C.A.A. paid a billion-dollar settlement, it may not be enough to help all the college players suffering right now. There are just too many of them.”

Making Sense of It All

Hoffman, 40, is about as far from the game as one can be. For more than eight months, he has been homeless. He has been stabbed. He has been shot. He acknowledges addictions to alcohol and prescription medication. He has served time in jail. He has sold his blood for $20 to $30 a pop, and has sold drugs, too. But sometimes even that is not enough to buy food; he once was arrested for stealing an eight-piece fried chicken bucket from a supermarket.

Once upon a time, though, Hoffman was a football star, a 6-foot-5, 287-pound left tackle at the University of North Carolina, the ironman on a team that went 11-1 and sent a half-dozen players to long careers in the N.F.L. In 1997, his final college season, he played nearly every snap. His position coach, Eddie Williamson, called him “the epitome of an offensive lineman:” physical, durable, driven.

But when his dream to play in the N.F.L. never materialized, Hoffman stumbled into the real world, and he has failed to right himself ever since.

The pattern of his downfall is not unique. It is football’s ongoing problem.

At the Sports Legacy Institute, which studies sports-related brain trauma and its aftereffects, more and more phone calls are flooding in from former college players (or their families) concerned that football has damaged their ability to live normal lives.

“They’re starting to connect the dots because the players are literally watching themselves change,” said Chris Nowinski, one of the institute’s founders. Nowinski said he used to field the calls himself, but now needs help because of the volume.

Hoffman’s sister and only sibling, Kira Soto, was the first person to make the connection between football and her brother’s radical changes in behavior. After seeing reports about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head, Soto researched its symptoms. Depression. Sensitivity to light. Memory loss. Impulse control. Aggression. With every sentence, she could feel her stomach lurch. She was reading a description of her brother.

“That’s exactly when I thought: ‘Oh my God, football. Football did this to Ryan,’ ” she said. Their mother, Irene, felt relieved that the family finally had an answer. Their father, Chad, said that while mental illness runs in the family and could have contributed to Ryan’s decline, he also believes football has permanently damaged his son.

The problem is that it cannot be conclusive that Ryan has C.T.E. because not everyone with it exhibits symptoms of it, and because it can only be diagnosed after a person’s death. Hoffman’s family members fear they might learn the truth sooner than later.

“If Ryan can’t get help soon,” Irene Hoffman said, “I’m afraid we’ll find him dead on the side of the road.”

Promise, and Then Problems

Ryan Hoffman’s memory is flimsy. Just hours after I met him at a seafood place for lunch here in January, he told me that he was not hungry because he had just been to a great seafood place. He suggested I try it. But he does remember things about his life as a football player.

“You try to hold on to those memories when they’re all you’ve got,” he said.

Hoffman took up the game as a high school freshman and pushed through the hard hits and the headaches and the time he vomited several times on the team bus riding home from a particularly physical game. Soon the recruiters from the top college programs came calling. Nebraska. Florida State. Alabama.

Hoffman, with the help of meticulous research by his father, a management consultant, picked North Carolina. But what his parents did not realize was that Ryan was about to become another interchangeable piece in America’s football machine. Once he arrived on campus, he was just a number — in his case a Carolina blue 79 — but Ryan reveled in it.

“I thought I’d just play my sport, then make the N.F.L. and go live in some big mansion,” he said.

Hoffman recalled having only one concussion, during his junior year, but couldn’t remember the details. He said he might have had others, too, but never complained because he feared losing his starting position. He never thought about the consequences.

Yet by his final season, Hoffman said he noticed his mind had begun to warp, and that antisocial thoughts — punching strangers, drinking and driving — had begun to creep in. When Soto visited him that year, she also noticed something odd: Hoffman had lined up clear plastic bags around his bedroom, spaced perfectly apart, containing things like his keys and his notebooks.

“I asked him why he was acting so weird — why the Ziplocs? — and he said, ‘It’s the only way I can mentally remember where things are,’ ” she said.

“Looking back,” she said, “he probably felt himself losing control.”

Lost Without Football

Maybe Hoffman was too small to be a pro. Maybe he wasn’t fast enough. Whatever the reason, no N.F.L. team called Hoffman during the draft or afterward, and by the spring of 1998 his football career was over — just as it was for the thousands of other players that year (and in other years) who didn’t make the step up to the N.F.L.

Many went on to productive careers and happiness outside football. Some were not as fortunate.

After graduation, Hoffman moved into his father’s house in Florida, jobless and without direction. He struggled to sleep. He complained of headaches and dizziness and of hearing loud noises like shotgun blasts inside his head and of seeing flashing lights. In college, Hoffman’s worst offenses were speeding tickets and fishing without a license. Now he was getting into fistfights on a regular basis, getting arrested, stealing, using marijuana, abusing Valium.

Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They prescribed Xanax and Adderall, and diagnosed a laundry list of psychological disorders: depression, schizoaffective disorder, manic depression, borderline personality disorder, anger impulse control disorder.

His sister enrolled him in welding school and got him a job at a parasailing company. He worked in construction, then as a roofer, then at a mattress plant. He even fought in M.M.A., encouraged to do so by his father, who thought Hoffman’s growing anger could be put to use there.

Nothing lasted, including his marriage. Hoffman divorced in 2008, and his daughter and stepson moved in with a grandmother. His life was unraveling like a tattered old Tar Heels jersey.

“I didn’t have football anymore,” Hoffman said, “so I felt lost.”

Last summer, Chad Hoffman tried one last time to get his son back on track. He called in a favor from a friend to land Ryan an office job, but Ryan was a week late to the interview and then lost the position on the first day.

Exasperated, the father decided he could provide no more, either financially or emotionally. He had long worn one of Ryan’s bejeweled bowl rings when he wanted to dress up, but now he ripped it from his finger and tossed it at his son.

“When you’re ready to join me on this, we can move ahead together,” he recalled telling his son.

Ryan Hoffman left and never came back.

These days most of his things are tucked into one corner of his sister’s garage: a red bicycle that he had put together from used parts; a worn duffel bag from the Sun Bowl, now filled with sweatshirts and socks; a scuffed laptop; his rock collection. His worldly possessions now take up barely 10 square feet.

He considers himself lucky some nights if he can find an abandoned home where he can sneak in with his flattened cardboard box and thick gray mover’s blanket and settle into a restless sleep. Other nights, he naps on the concrete porch of a shuttered business, or in a dark field, keeping one eye open for police.

His family worries.

“How do you help someone you love so much, and who is so precious to you, who you’d give your life for, but who doesn’t want help and who can’t think straight anymore?” Chad Hoffman said, his eyes filling with tears. “Maybe you can’t.

“How did someone who had that much talent end up like Ryan? Maybe we’ll never find out.”

What Now?

How many parents of former college players are asking the same thing?

When I wrote last year about Rayfield Wright, the Hall of Fame offensive tackle, and his battle with early-onset dementia, more than a dozen emails arrived in my inbox from college players who empathized with him. Football had damaged their brains, too, they wrote.

But those players weren’t N.F.L. Hall of Famers; most had been mere practice dummies or complementary players like Hoffman, comets who once dazzled on Saturdays nights but quickly fizzled out and disappeared from view.

Hoffman, picking up a used cigarette in the parking lot and lighting it, said he was not jealous of those who made the leap to the N.F.L. that he could not. The rosters of his college teams are littered with players who went on to long pro careers. Dre Bly. Alge Crumpler. Greg Ellis. Vonnie Holliday. One of Hoffman’s old linemates, Jeff Saturday, went from Chapel Hill to Indianapolis, where he won a Super Bowl as Peyton Manning’s longtime center.

Saturday told me he was shocked to hear that Hoffman was homeless and aimless now because Hoffman had been so focused in college. Hoffman was elated to hear that Saturday remembered him.

“I’m proud of those guys who made it,” Hoffman said. “And, you know, maybe if I would have made it in the N.F.L., maybe I would’ve gotten paralyzed or something.”

Instead, he is paralyzed in other ways. Months after the police supposedly confiscated his identification last year, he has yet to apply for a new government I.D. Day after day he told me, “Yeah, maybe tomorrow I’ll go to the office to get one.”

Without an ID, Hoffman can’t stay in a shelter, so he spends his days and nights looking for places to hang out for a while. His girlfriend, Michelle Pettigrew, lives on the street with him, and often snuggles next to him when he’s panhandling.

Hoffman has also befriended a 22-year-old high school dropout who told me he has a mental illness, is addicted to drugs and is occasionally suicidal. Hoffman said he feels a responsibility to keep Pettigrew and the young man safe. He is in charge of finding them a place to sleep every night. He said that duty gives him a purpose, but that he wants so much more.

“I really just want to get a job, so I can be a good father,” he said, wiping tears. “I don’t want my daughter to see me like this.”

Soto continues to seek help for him. At one point several years ago she reached out to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who steered her to the University of South Florida. Hoffman said he underwent neuropsychological testing there, but his first visit there was also his last.

“Those doctors said there was definitely something there and that I should follow up with more tests, but I never did because I didn’t like them prodding,” he said. “I’m afraid they will tell me something I don’t want to hear.”

Instead of seeking regular medical help, Hoffman said he self-medicates, often by using his panhandling money to buy apple pie moonshine off the street or $2 Modelos from convenience stores.

He said he felt “like a king” at North Carolina because of how football players were treated. Now, when he needs a shower, he drops by a friend’s house, maybe once a week. To use a toilet, he relies on gas stations and McDonald’s. He is losing weight, week by week, and is down to 185 pounds. The dimple that once graced his face is all but gone, not that there is much to smile about anymore.

His family lives about 200 miles northeast, a world away. Hoffman’s mother wires him $20 here, $100 there, mostly for new cellphones because Hoffman keeps losing his. She is desperate to keep tabs on him.

Before Christmas, she sent him a text on his girlfriend’s phone: Where are you now? Don’t give up. Ryan, I can’t assist you if I don’t hear from you. Need to hear from you, Ryan.

Hoffman responded: sorry. depressed and its got best of me. might not make it. i quit.

His mother wrote back: Where are you? Don’t give up.

Hoffman: i need a phone. i’m miserable. i want to die.

“Sometimes, I just pray that a meteorite hits me,” Hoffman told me. “I think about drinking until I die and just lay down. But I need money to get a drink, so I need to work. A little bit of me still thinks there’s hope. I have some issues, but I’m still viable.

“I just need a little help. I just don’t know how to get out of this myself.”

Inside that shell of a man — a player turned panhandler whose spotlight is now a dim streetlight — there is still that athlete who doesn’t want to quit.

Share
Mar 062015
 

insidehighered

March 6, 2015
By R. Owen Williams

All of higher education has been under the gun for some time; with recession, out came the cannons. Liberal arts colleges have been especially battered, such that they could use a new narrative. At the Associated Colleges of the South — a consortium of 16 nationally recognized liberal arts colleges — we believe it is possible to provide tangible evidence of success and, perhaps more importantly, a clearer definition of liberal arts outcomes.

Liberal arts colleges (in particular, the 130-plus colleges of the Annapolis Group) enroll about 1 percent of all postsecondary students, yet the influence of their graduates on American society seems disproportionately significant.

With the growing demands for accountability and transparency regarding college performance, to say nothing of the rush to rank colleges in every conceivable fashion, the data on results are increasingly available.

And the numbers suggest that liberal arts college students are more successful before and after graduation than public university students.

Although many of the purported liberal arts outcomes defy measurement — such as discovery of one’s life mission, or increased dedication to a life of learning — there is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of a liberal arts education.

Among their most impressive outcomes, liberal arts college graduates are more likely to pursue postgraduate studies. Among STEM majors, for example, 57 percent of smaller-private-college graduates apply to graduate school, whereas only 40 percent of regional public university graduates apply.

Even more importantly, students at liberal arts colleges reach graduation more quickly than do students at public universities. The impressive completion rate at liberal arts colleges is due to various factors, including the constant and nearly exclusive level of attention paid to undergraduates. According to a study recently released, only 19 percent of full-time students at public universities earn a bachelor’s degree in four years; only 36 percent of full-time students at state flagship universities complete their degrees on time. In fact, the national six-year graduation rate for students at public universities hovers at around 50 percent.

By contrast, most of the top 100 liberal arts colleges maintain a 4-year graduation rate above 74 percent.

It is also important to note that first-generation students graduate faster from liberal arts colleges: 70 percent graduate within six years at liberal arts colleges, whereas 57 percent graduate in six years from public universities.

Consider too the employment and salary data for liberal arts graduates. In early 2014, the unemployment rate for recent liberal arts graduates was 5.2 percent and the rate for mature workers (ages 41-50) with liberal arts degrees was 3.5 percent, while the national unemployment rate was 6.6 percent.

According to a recent study, “At peak earnings ages (56-60 years), workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2,000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional or preprofessional fields.”

All this data tells a compelling story, no doubt. But there is one number that liberal arts educators don’t like to talk about — namely the cost of tuition, which is higher than at public institutions.

At What Cost?

Complaints about college costs are loud and growing louder, even after bigger and bigger tuition discounts. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that college education is bankrupting the middle class. At the same time, many liberal arts colleges face the unacceptable choice between becoming elitist or insolvent.

Liberal arts colleges are private institutions that do indeed cost more than public universities. As such, many (though clearly not all) students who attend liberal arts colleges come from well-heeled backgrounds; many have attended better schools and received more individual nurturing than other students. Their parents are often successful people with networks and connections that can easily work to their children’s benefit. In other words, many of the students who attend liberal arts colleges start with a huge leg up.

So, however uncomfortable it is to consider, we must ask: How much of the success enjoyed by liberal arts students is a function of the cultural capital they bring to college and how much of it is attributable to the type of higher education institution they attend?

Do liberal arts colleges build upon or borrow from their students’ cultural capital? We do not really know how much colleges add to the skills and abilities students already possess. Nor do we know with certainty whether liberal arts colleges offer superior results to liberal arts programs at research universities.

Parents are justifiably concerned. Tell us, they say, in clear and verifiable language, precisely what our children will get in return for the higher tuition at liberal arts institutions. They expect straight answers, echoing Voltaire: “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.” But that is easier said than done.

Definition of Outcomes

According to the traditional narrative, liberal arts students attain a breadth of knowledge, become lifelong learners and develop the skill of critical thinking.

That’s all good, though vague. And the trope of critical thinking has been fighting over its weight class for so long that it has been pummeled meaningless. Worse, it never fully described the liberal arts experience anyway.

Critical thinking is actually just the first step in a larger process that we might want to call constructive thinking. Rest assured, this is not just wordplay.

Critical thinking represents the highly valuable inquiry and interrogation prerequisite to problem identification; it involves the analysis of an argument’s merits and faults. It is the process of judging, approving or disapproving.

Liberal arts colleges encourage students to ask lots of questions. Through questions, students unravel or deconstruct an argument in order to access its utility.

While none of this is inherently negative, it too often becomes routinely condemnatory. It can also breed intellectual laziness; the job of taking something apart is far easier than the job of putting it back together again.

The identification of problems made possible by critical thinking is useful only if it gives rise to the problem solving of constructive thinking. The desired endgame is problem solving, not critical thinking for its own sake.

In the same way that critical thinking might be seen as a negative exercise, constructive thinking should be seen as a positive or productive process.

Properly executed, the deconstruction performed through critical thinking gives way to contextual, compassionate, collaborative, creative and, eventually, constructive thinking. That process yields multiple forms of knowledge, solutions and open minds.

The beauty of the liberal arts is that they expose students to a myriad of academic disciplines and intellectual methods, which — when rigorously engaged and intelligently aggregated — enable valuable problem solving, personal growth and social progress. Students who have studied history, literature, social sciences, natural sciences and the arts have the distinct advantage of varied perspectives or approaches when confronted with complicated circumstances.

Depth matters, of course, but so too does breadth. Ninety percent of Nobel laureates in the sciences, for example, say “the arts should be part of every technologist’s education” and, indeed, 80 percent can point to specific respects in which the arts increased their innovative capacity.

Or, as was recently observed by the Rhodes College chemistry professor Loretta Jackson-Hayes, “Our culture has drawn an artificial line between arts and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs…. When introducing the iPad 2, Jobs… declared: ‘It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.’”

And this cuts both ways, as humanists cannot properly serve their purposes without understanding the sciences.

There is also an essential partnership between content and competency. When solving problems, we necessarily draw upon both knowledge and skills. One is useless without the other. As the proverb insists, to give fish is good, but to teach fishing is better.

The marriages of depth and breadth, sciences and arts, content and competency, are at the heart of constructive thinking. The ability to draw upon multifarious perspectives and methods is what makes the liberal arts graduate stand out.

When we develop new assessment methodologies to measure constructive thinking (and whatever other outcomes we identify and highlight), they will point us toward better ways of nurturing those outcomes in the classroom and demonstrating its intellectual and social merit. By employing concepts like constructive thinking and finding more precise language that truly describes the liberal arts experience, there is great potential for increased accountability and improved results for students, faculty and institutions alike.

The numbers tell a compelling story. But we await a clearer explanation for what generates that success. Liberal arts educators need to better articulate exactly what it is they do and how they do it. They need to practice what they teach.

R. Owen Williams is president of the Associated Colleges of the South.

Share
Mar 062015
 

nationalreview

Break Up the Higher-Ed Cartel

By Ron DeSantis & Mike Lee — March 4, 2015

Usually something costs more because it’s more valuable. But in higher education, the exact opposite appears to be happening.

The cost of college rises every year, forcing millions of Americans to take on a tremendous amount of debt. Yet, at the same time, the value of a traditional college degree has declined: A stunning 40 percent of recent college graduates now end up in jobs that do not require a college degree.

This is a troubling fact for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder who need to acquire advanced skills to move up, and for middle-class parents struggling to ensure that their children end up better off than they were.

The root of the problem lies in government policies that have conflated the need for acquiring advanced knowledge and skills with obtaining a degree from a traditional brick-and-ivy university. As a result, federal law limits student aid only to students attending universities that receive a stamp of approval from a regional accreditation body. And only the Department of Education decides who gets to be an accreditor.

The resulting bureaucratic iron triangle — the Department of Education, regional accreditors, and colleges and universities — acts as a kind of education cartel that stifles new, innovative education models that could bring down the cost of acquiring the skills that are critical to securing good jobs and achieving higher earning potential.

To fix this, we need to open up an alternative market for education that gives students access to federal loan money to put towards non-traditional educational opportunities, such as online learning courses, vocational schools, and apprenticeships in skilled trades.

That’s why this week we introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act. Our reform would allow states to create their own accreditation systems, tailoring each one to fit the needs of the students and job market in that area. It would allow students to receive student aid to get the skills they need customized to their personal timelines and budgets.

It is unlikely, for example, that a single parent raising two children would be able to shoulder the cost and time commitment of a traditional four-year university. However, should a state decide to accredit opportunities such as online courses or part-time certification programs, that single parent could take classes on a schedule that works for them at a price that doesn’t create crippling debt later on.

Not only would the HERO Act expand secondary education to millions of Americans who are currently underserved, it would also help stabilize and decrease our nation’s skyrocketing education costs — outstanding student debt is now over $1 trillion. Our reform would begin to break the vicious cycle of ever-increasing government subsidies chasing ever-increasing tuition rates.

It is important to note that our proposed reforms do not jeopardize the federal accreditation system already in place, but instead recognize that individual states are equally able to identify where the current system is failing students and then accredit programs that will fill this void.

The current cartel of higher education has locked out non-traditional students and driven costs ever higher. By opening up our nation’s higher-education system to competitively priced alternative programs, traditional institutions would have to reexamine the pricing schemes that have led to the explosion of student-loan debt.

Fostering choices outside of the current education model will spur competition and encourage schools to lower costs — benefiting all students.

Our legislation is a simple, conservative reform to higher education that will shift power closer to the states and benefit millions of future students. It is time that we take this simple step towards ensuring a more prosperous future.

— Ron DeSantis is a Republican U.S. congressman from Florida. Mike Lee is a Republican U.S. senator from Utah.

Share
Mar 062015
 

winstonbanner3

Share
Mar 062015
 

new-bern-sun-journal

By Eddie Fitzgerald, Sun Journal Staff
Published: Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 15:20 PM.

Entrepreneurial hopefuls in New Bern could soon have a place to develop their ideas on new widgets, innovative small businesses or manufacturing innovations.

New Bern and Craven County are in the process of forming a business incubator to support entrepreneurs and possible new businesses in the city.

Timothy Downs, Craven County director of economic development, said the business incubator is only in the planning stage and the county and city are trying to determine if the community can support one.

“We have toured other locations and we’re exploring options, looking at structures, programs and locations,” Downs said. “(We have) a very strong business community; also, a good number of retirees, as well as a military presence. All those things together point to the likelihood we have an entrepreneurial population.”

Downs said that when he started as the county director of economic development in 2013, one of the first things he noticed is there was no resource center for entrepreneurs, only the Small Business Center at Craven Community College.

“That’s something I’ve been thinking about since I started,” he said.

Downs said the city, county and Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp. are supportive of a business incubator. But it will take a lot of support from the community and will need the right person to run it, he said.

Since the idea started, there have been several locations proposed for the incubator, including Queen Street and now 509 Broad St., a two-story brick office building the county owns between Hancock and Metcalf streets.

Pitt County was one of the first counties in Eastern North Carolina to start a business incubator, opening its Technology Enterprise Center of Eastern Carolina in 1995.

Several successful entrepreneurial ventures have grown from the incubator since then.

Brad Hufford, Pitt County associate director for retention and expansion and manager of the Technology Enterprise Center of Eastern Carolina, said the county applied for and received a $200,000 grant from the N.C. Technological Development Authority in 1995 that was restricted to technological-based enterprises.

It ended up costing Pitt County $1.3 million to purchase the former textile plant Prep Shirt Factory at 1800 N. Greene St. in Greenville for the business incubator. Beside the grant, the county used $200,000 in cash from the Pitt County Building Fund, $125,000 appropriated by the county, $500,000 in a low-interest loan and a little less than $500,000 in private contributions, Hufford said.

purplearrowEast Carolina University and Pitt Community College played a big part in the incubator, making referrals of potential entrepreneurial candidates and supporting enterprises with education and training, Hufford said.

Throughout the years, the incubator has run the gamut of start-up companies. Those small companies include a manufacturer of CO2 sensors for small gasoline engines, diabetic foot ulcer treatment, a bonding element for bone reconstruction (RIT Surgical), an enzyme for a pharmaceutical company, a light for motorcycle and bicycle wheels (by Lunasee) that provides better visibility than reflectors, and a company that does clinical trials for drug companies.

There are also a couple of anchor tenants that include the bio-technological training program for Pitt Community College, storage space for the county and an ECU blast lab to study explosions on structures that is funded by the Department of Defense, Hufford said.

One of the first ventures was manufacturing of wire harnesses used in heavy industrial use, he said.

The most successful entrepreneurial venture led to the Janus Development Group that started out making a “Speech Easy” anti-stuttering device, Hufford said.

“They were an example of an entrepreneur partnering with the academic side of the speech and language pathology program at East Carolina University,” he said.

Hufford said some of the start-ups have leased space at the incubator for five or six years. Others have moved out to lease their own buildings or have been bought out, he said.

“It has been great for Pitt County,” Hufford said. “We provide another toolbox to help entrepreneurs who wouldn’t have the space if we were not available. Without it, we would really be giving up a level playing field to foster entrepreneurship in our own neck of the woods. It is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.”

If New Bern and Craven County pursue a business incubator, Hufford suggested a partnership with the academic community: Craven Community College and East Carolina University.

“It’s not just about providing below-market rent,” he said. “It is also about education. It is an opportunity to create a framework of support around entrepreneurship. It’s going to take some time to have those success stories. You will have failures along the way, but you can’t be discouraged. You just have to keep giving them all the tools to make them successful.

“It’s not something where in a year you’ll be cranking out businesses that will create employment. It may take five or six years to see it grow and be able to support itself.”

Follow Eddie Fitzgerald on Twitter @EFitzgeraldNBSJ.

Share
Mar 062015
 

03/05/2015 9:08 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan would increase tuition at the state’s community colleges, give veterans in-state tuition rates and force the UNC system to find cuts of 2 percent, or about $50 million.

But the budget also provides new spending and $49 million for expected enrollment growth in the UNC system, so the overall university budget cut is 1.2 percent.

The “efficiency” reductions are left up to UNC system leaders, but they are barred from cutting financial aid. Five campuses are also exempt from the budget knife – Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, UNC Asheville, UNC School of the Arts and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

New university spending includes $8 million for East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, which is fighting for its survival. Elizabeth City State University, which has struggled with a decline in students, would get an additional $1.9 million for technology upgrades.

McCrory emphasized that he’s putting new money into funds aimed at startups and commercialization of university research. A proposed Venture Multiplier Fund would spend $15 million a year, and a university commercialization program would spend $7.5 million in the next two years to help move discoveries to market.

UNC President Tom Ross issued a statement saying he appreciated McCrory’s proposed commercialization funding and his recognition of the value of UNC’s research efforts.

Ross said the UNC system has worked hard on efficiency measures in recent years.

“We are disappointed to see an additional cut of 2% proposed and no salary raises for faculty and staff as the state’s economy continues to recover and grow,” Ross said.

Budget Director Lee Roberts said the overall reduction of $26 million amounts to a very small part of the university’s total budget.

The state’s community college system would see a $3 million decrease in enrollment funding to match a 1.6 percent drop in students from last year. But the system would receive $5 million to upgrade its College Information System, the central data system of student information and operations.

The budget would raise community college tuition by 5.5 percent. Tuition would climb from $72 per credit hour to $76 per credit hour, costing the average full-time student an additional $128 a year.

KEY STAT: The overall UNC system budget is reduced by $26 million, while the N.C. Community College System is down $13.6 million from last year.

DOWN ON PRIVATE FUNDRAISING: McCrory’s budget would limit the use of state dollars to $1 million at each campus for private fundraising efforts. That would affect 12 campuses and reduce university funding in that area by $18 million.

HOW LIKELY? It’s unclear whether the legislature will go for McCrory’s proposals for venture and commercialization spending that would boost university research.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article12777941.html#storylink=cpy
Share
Mar 062015
 

newsobserver

Published: March 6, 2015

Jan Boxill, implicated in UNC scandal, resigns

The university first took action to fire Jan Boxill months ago

 

Share