McCrory changing the funding formula for higher education

| April 30, 2014

Imageby Michael Futch, Fayetteville Observer, April 30, 2014.

Before speaking further, the governor acknowledged he was stepping on some toes.

With the president of Methodist University sitting next to him and the chancellor of Fayetteville State University in the audience, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said his administration is changing the educational formula in the state’s centers of higher learning.

The change, he said during Tuesday night’s Methodist University Spring Entrepreneurial Leadership Summit, is necessary to lure more businesses to the state. If North Carolina continues to lack the needed labor force, he said, using electrical and mechanical technicians as an example, the state is going to have a hard time recruiting companies.

There’s a limit to the four-year college degrees that a marketplace can sustain, he said, and there’s a lot of competition.

“I’m rewarding community colleges that are going back to more technical training, and I’m going to reward more universities in the future that give more classes to where our commerce needs are,” McCrory said.

McCrory was the keynote speaker for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Summit, which was attended by nearly 400 community leaders, business leaders and members of the Methodist University community at Embassy Suites. The focus during the nearly 30-minute talk was on the impact and value of entrepreneurship in the state.

But questions also concerned the governor’s take on his first 14 months of office, opportunities for military veterans and the controversial issue of natural gas exploration.

Rather than speaking from a podium, McCrory fielded questions from Methodist President Ben Hancock. The men sat in chairs on stage for this casual question-and-answer dialogue, with the U.S. and North Carolina state flags displayed behind them.

“We’ve got to align our education curriculum closer to what businesses are looking for right now,” McCrory said. “Education and commerce have got to be aligned. That’s why I’m so impressed with the entrepreneurial program at Methodist. That’s a skill set people are looking for right now. We’re speaking to universities and community colleges about this. You shouldn’t measure success by how many students are coming in and even graduating. We should measure success by how many students are getting jobs. Especially, jobs that they study for.”

McCrory said his administration is using the military sector as a major recruitment tool “to get the GE’s, United Technologies and General Dynamics to invest in North Carolina.”

State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is setting up a computer system tie-in that lists the qualifications and skills for soldiers returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq in a network for private business perusal, he said.

He alluded to the announcement made two weeks ago, where military veterans will be offered in-state tuition at community colleges in North Carolina. “That’s going to start after this budget session,” he said. “We’re also looking at the budget, offering in-state tuition for universities, even for out-of-state veterans returning home. We want them to make their home in North Carolina after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Both the state and the nation, McCrory said, are seeing an economic revival. Part of that, he said, is due to the economy of China and other countries where the cost of labor is going up along with the cost of moving products.

“We’re seeing a great renaissance in manufacturing,” he said. “One reason for the change in the tax system and major tax reform in North Carolina was to attract those companies that make things and build things and innovate things and don’t punish that productivity.”

He cited agriculture, too, as offering great opportunity for the entrepreneur.

McCrory said one of his goals as governor is to look for natural gas exploration “in and around this area,” alluding to Lee, Moore and Harnett counties.

Fracking for underground deposits of natural gas has its share of critics, but McCrory said those areas in the nation where natural gas exploration is being done is where unemployment is lowest and opportunity for job growth is highest.

“I might add, Piedmont Natural Gas and Duke Energy have just announced a major pipeline. Another pipeline coming in from Pennsylvania may be going through this area, which shows the demand for natural gas.

“If we can have origination from this area, I think the job growth would explode.”

Category: Education, SPIN Blog

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