In a speech at UNC Pembroke, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory challenged higher education leaders to work smarter for the economic recovery of the state.
Governor Pat McCory and Chancellor Kyle R. Carter
The new governor made two appearances in Pembroke on April 11, and brought good news at both stops. The campus was the site for his first major speech on education since he took office in January.
Gov. McCrory called it a “sit-down conver- sation” with the UNC Board of Governors, who had convened in Pembroke on April 11-12 to help celebrate the university’s 125th anniversary. It was a statewide media event with television cameras rolling and a packed press row in the University Center Annex.
Before his speech, Gov. McCrory wished UNCP a happy birthday.
“You should be proud of the heritage and your history, and what you’re doing for this region, which has been hit hard by the economic situation,” he said. “This great university is part of the solution.”
Rumors of one or more UNC campus closings have rocked Pembroke and other campuses, but Gov. McCrory brought good news.
“I have had a good meeting this week with the chancellor’s of our historically black universities,” he said. “I read today from the Senate perspective, Phil Berger (Senate majority leader), said campus closings are not in the Senate budget.”
Governor Pat McCory and Chancellor Kyle R. Carter preparing to take a tour of campus
With nearly $140 million in cuts to UNC’s 17 campuses in his proposed budget, the Republican governor put it clearly: “We’ve got to make changes.”
Shared resources, admini- strative consoli- dation, online learning and the elimination unproductive academic programs have been discussed by the McCrory administration ways to increase efficiency in higher education.
“A major job of yours is to see how we can decrease administrative costs and make sure the money is going directly to the students and to the education that we need,” McCrory told the board. “That is where we need to think outside of the box.”
The governor said he has spent his first weeks in office making “hard decisions” on Medicaid, unemployment compensation and economic development. Any revenues above the state’s projections, will go to a rainy day fund to safeguard the state against future economic downturns and natural disasters.
For higher education, he said “the status quo is unacceptable.” Gov. McCrory wants the four components of state education, pre-k, k-12, community colleges and the UNC system, to work together on budgets and to clarify the “education brand.”
“We must integrate the university system’s objectives into our commerce team to be at the table when we are recruiting industry,” he said. “There is a disconnect between higher education and North Carolina having the fourth highest unemployment in the nation.
“I have met with four or five employers in the past two weeks who tell me they have job openings but they can’t find the qualified employees to fill their jobs,” Gov. McCrory said.
Governor Pat McCory addresses the Board of Governors while UNC system President Tom Ross listens.
North Carolina’s governor would make the state more competitive among southeastern states in economic development and higher education is directly tied to commerce.
Gov. McCrory modified some negative remarks he made earlier about liberal arts education, reminding the audience of his own education.
“I am a graduate of Catawba College and majored in political science,” he said. “I believe in taking the critical thinking courses, then taking that knowledge and applying it to occupations.”
The governor said he is “excited about the future of the universities and North Carolina,” but the challenges are great.
“My goal is to continue to have the brand of our university system be the first rate brand in the nation and in the world,” he said. “It’s going to be crucial to our economic development, but that also means we’ve got to change some things. And that’s not change for the sake of change. It’s change just like the private sector has to do with their customers and their products every single day.”
After a tour of UNCP’s campus, the governor travelled only a few miles from campus to COMtech to announce that Trinity Frozen Foods Co. of Charlotte, N.C., will build a $15 million sweet potato processing facility in Pembroke. The company plans to create 149 jobs.