Despite an influx of money and students, North Carolina’s historically black public universities still face weak graduation rates and several financial problems.
State lawmakers and voters have allocated nearly half a billion dollars since 2000 to build new buildings at the five schools and to beef up recruiting and marketing operations. The efforts helped boost the number of students at the universities by about 12,000, or 52 percent, since the beginning of the decade.
Yet the universities Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, North Carolina A&T State, North Carolina Central and Winston-Salem State have graduation rates lagging behind the overall University of North Carolina system. Fewer than half of the students at the historically black schools make it to graduation within six years, compared to a UNC system rate of 59 percent.
Four of the schools are getting new leadership within a month, and two of them face financial scrutiny.
Stanley Battle became the new chancellor at North Carolina A&T after the interim chancellor uncovered financial abuse and administrative chaos. At Fayetteville State, chancellor T.J. Bryan abruptly announced her resignation last week amid a financial audit.
UNC President Erskine Bowles vowed that problems unearthed at North Carolina A&T and Fayetteville State will be corrected, and he called on the new chancellors to lead the way.
“I want leaders who are capable to put in a strong infrastructure and to manage these organizations to allow them to grow and grow successfully,” Bowles said.
New UNC system goals to improve graduation rates may have a greater effect on the historically black universities, where half to two-thirds of undergraduates are eligible for federal financial aid for low-income students. The goals may force schools to raise the bar for student admission.
“You’re going to have growing pains,” said Donald Reaves, the incoming chancellor at Winston-Salem State. “The way I think about this is, you have to give the institution time to catch up to the growth … it all isn’t going to happen overnight.”
Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com
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