RALEIGH, N.C. — Faced with dire economic circumstances, policymakers at the state level are searching for creative ways to promote college completion while keeping college affordable. Earlier this morning, policymakers, educators and business leaders gathered for a meeting at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction convened by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center in collaboration with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and in partnership with the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority. The group tackled an important question: With less funding, how do we continue to provide strong financial aid options, keep college affordable, and ensure that 55 percent of Americans hold a postsecondary degree by 2025?
Hosted by College Board President Gaston Caperton and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the North Carolina State Capital event was the next stop of the College Completion Agenda: State Capitals Campaign, a yearlong, multistate campaign to mobilize the nation to increase the proportion of Americans that hold a postsecondary degree by 2025.
North Carolina is also a leader in the field of financial aid and college affordability, boasting programs such as the Carolina Covenant and the Davidson Trust, maintaining one of the lowest in-state tuition rates for two- and four-year institutions. North Carolina’s bold commitment to increase the number of students — especially students from low-income families — who are prepared to succeed in college, is one of the many reasons it was selected for the State Capitals Campaign. North Carolina’s Career and College Promise initiative includes key components such as increasing the number of students taking college-level courses in high school, expanding STEM initiatives and forming a P–20 longitudinal data system in order to provide comprehensive data and information on all students.
The event program included distinguished speakers and two dynamic panel discussions moderated by Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Steve Brooks of the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority. Participants engaged in a conversation about ways to advance the policies and practices that drive excellence in our schools and universities and improve college success in the face of budget constraints, rising costs and expanding enrollment.
- Gaston Caperton, Former Governor of West Virginia and President, The College Board
- Tom Apodaca, North Carolina State Senator
- June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Brenda Bautsch, Policy Specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures
- Steven E. Brooks, Executive Director, North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority
- Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton
- Rick Glazier, North Carolina State Representative
- Shirley Ort, Associate Provost and Director, Scholarships and Student Aid, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- Scott Ralls, President, North Carolina Community Colleges
- Thomas W. Ross, President, University of North Carolina
- Hope Williams, President, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
"Ensuring that every student has the opportunity to earn a college degree, regardless of socioeconomic status, is one of our nation’s most important goals," said College Board President Gaston Caperton. "As we fight every day to increase the proportion of Americans with this critical credential, the College Board is proud to call Gov. Purdue and the State of North Carolina our partners in a truly historic effort."
"In today’s world, the equipment for success is a good education. In North Carolina, we are fortunate to have a heritage of providing those opportunities," said Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. "We founded the first public university in the United States of America. It is a great heritage that has reaped great benefits for our state and which also inspired the vision to create what is probably the best community college system in our nation. Even in the toughest times, North Carolina has stood tall for education. Now more than ever, we must protect these assets we’ve spent so long building up and keep our public higher education accessible and affordable."
"We know that North Carolina’s economic future hinges on our ability to get more of our young people better educated and equipped to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. That’s why it is critically important that we maintain a long-term vision for higher education that extends beyond the current budget crisis," said Thomas W. Ross, President of the University of North Carolina. "North Carolina simply cannot afford to close the door to a University of North Carolina education for qualified students. That will require that we continue to keep tuition on UNC campuses as low as possible and that we provide an adequate supply of need-based financial aid."
"North Carolina Community Colleges have made student success and completion our strategic focus in a time when students are looking to us in historic numbers," said Scott Ralls, North Carolina Community College System president. "We have experienced a 25 percent increase in enrollment over the past three years, and our ability to provide education and training, while breaking down barriers standing in the way of completion, is an economic imperative."
"College access and success are major priorities for the 36 independent colleges and universities in North Carolina and a part of the State’s career and college ready goal," stated President of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) Hope Williams. "This year, in addition to the critical state and federal grant aid made available to students, NCICU received $2.2 million for scholarships and access programs for our and campuses and students across the state."
President Caperton also announced that the College Board is working with the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority and College Foundation of North Carolina to construct a pilot program to provide specific information to middle school students and their parents about paying for college, with the hopes of easing the burden of the financial aid process. The idea for the pilot grows out of the Rethinking Student Aid project of the College Board on which three North Carolinians served: Charles Clotfelter of Duke University, Shirley Ort of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Steve Brooks of the State Education Assistance Authority. The College Board hopes the pilot will result in an increased understanding about postsecondary opportunities and ultimately increase the number of students who enroll.
To inform the conversation and help shape policies related to college completion, the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center referenced the following resources during the event for state policymakers and educators, including:
- Research and data points that highlight education progress within the state and that can be tracked through http://completionagenda.collegeboard.org/, an interactive website that provides comparative and customized data by state.
- The College Completion Agenda 2010 Progress Report and The College Completion Agenda: State Policy Guide in collaboration with NCSL. Released in July 2010, the Progress Report and the State Policy Guide chart the progress of the nation and each of the 50 states toward the common goal of significantly improving college completion by 2025. The Progress Report also points to areas of progress in states, but formidable challenges remain at every level of the system for students who aspire to enroll and succeed in college.
The State Capitals Campaign will include a series of high-profile events in 2011 — roundtables, town hall meetings and summits — that bring together policymakers, educators, community and business leaders, media, students, and concerned citizens, all with the common goal of improving college completion rates by 2025. The first stop on the State Capitals Campaign was Maryland. Some of the upcoming state capital events will include visits to Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.
Carly Lindauer, The College Board, 212-713-8052, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center was established to help transform education in America. Guided by the College Board’s principles of excellence and equity in education, the Center works to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to succeed in college and beyond. Critical connections between policy, research and real-world practice are made to develop innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges in education today. Drawing from the experience of the College Board’s active membership consisting of education professionals from more than 5,900 institutions, priorities include: College Preparation & Access, College Affordability & Financial Aid, and College Admission & Completion. For more information, visit advocacy.collegeboard.org.
The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staff of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.