08/19/06 — Interesting: ‘Practicality’ blew N.C.’s ‘free tuition’

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Interesting: ‘Practicality’ blew N.C.’s ‘free tuition’

The University of North Carolina system has a constitutional mandate to provide “free” tuition to the state’s students. Well, free — “as far as practicable.”

Obviously, free tuition hasn’t been practical in the memories of folks living today. And tuition increased more than 70 percent in five recent years.

The Center for Public Policy Research has released a 402-page report on a far-ranging study of the state’s university system. Runaway tuition is only one part of its findings. It suggests that this alone leaves the system open for lawsuits.

Apparently not included in the report is what some might view as the interestingly high salaries paid top administrators in the system.

These include pay and perks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — plus “golden parachutes” when they elect to step down. While such earnings are not uncommon in large private corporations, they tend to go to people who have made substantial investments and whose decisions are subject to great and ongoing risks to their stockholders. Administrators of universities and university systems face no such risks.

One finding of the Center for Public Policy Research is particularly intriguing. It expresses concern over the influence of politics and financial contributions on the selection of members of the UNC Board of Governors.

Members are chosen by the General Assembly. To avoid political influence, the report suggests, three-fourths of the members should be appointed by the governor.

That recommendation flies in the face of reality. It implies that sitting governors choose members of boards and commissions without any consideration of political influence or campaign contributions.

Perhaps the Center for Public Policy Research needs to do a little research on how governors select people for seats on the state’s various boards and commissions.

Published in Editorials on August 19, 2006 11:34 PM