Zooming in on the Tar Heel State

In previous editions, we examined the state of higher education in Georgia, then New York, California, Texas and Illinois. This month, Diverse’s state-focused reporting takes us to North Carolina, the state with themost public, four-year historically Black colleges and universities. It is also home of the first public, four-year American Indian-serving college, birthplace to the United States’ first public university and setting of the oldest educational institution for women in the country.

With such a pioneering commitment to higher education, it’s hard to believe that the governing board of the 58-institution community college system would disregard its open-door policy to ban anyone access to its degree programs. Despite assurances from federal officials that it is not unlawful to admit undocumented students to college, the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges this summer upheld a ban on such students while an independent study on the matter is being conducted. The board has changed its policy on undocumented students four times in eight years.

It all boils down to politics, and illegal immigration has become a wedge issue in this election year. The failure of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform has resulted in local entities across the country creating a hodgepodge of policies that have divided their communities.

For their part, a number of community college presidents in North Carolina say they resent being dragged into election-year illegal immigration politics.David Pluviose captures administrators’ frustration in the feature story “LearningWhile Undocumented.”

“As an educator, it’s difficult to deal with the politics because we’re in the business of teaching students. Community colleges are not the immigration police. That’s not what we signed on to do,” says Wake Technical Community College President Stephen C. Scott, who is also the president of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents.

It’s not surprising that North Carolina’s highly diversified economy has made it one of the more attractive Sunbelt states for newcomers seeking jobs and social tranquility. State leaders have predicted that population growth is expected to add 80,000 students to the 200,000-student University of North Carolina system by 2017. In “Meeting New Challenges,” senior writer Ronald Roach learns fromBlack college presidents how anticipated enrollment growth is shaping their priorities as leaders.

Also in this edition, we visit Dr. James Anderson, the former vice provost for undergraduate affairs at North Carolina Central University who returned to the state to lead and raise the academic profile of Fayetteville State University. Check out our features on the hugely successful Research Triangle area, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s diverse history and future, North Carolina State University’s pioneer women’s basketball coach Kay Yow and much more. We hope you enjoy the collection of stories on North Carolina.As always,we welcome your feedback.

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