CHAPEL HILL, N.C.
North Carolina’s universities are falling behind on providing the number of well-educated, skilled workers the state needs, according to a report last week to a commission planning the University of North Carolina system’s future.
The state will need 400,000 new workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2014, but its public and private colleges are expected to produce only 254,000, according to data presented to the UNC Tomorrow Commission. To fill that gap, colleges will have to produce more than 15,000 more graduates each year.
“The sheer volume of that left me breathless,” said Hanna Gage, a member of the commission and the UNC Board of Governors.
The UNC system is composed of all 16 of North Carolina’s public institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees.
The commission plans to hold 11 regional meetings around the state starting next month, to take ideas and requests from citizens, and business and community leaders about what they need from the state’s higher education system.
The panel of educational, business and community members will craft a report by the end of this year, to which the university will respond by the spring.
Members agreed that the UNC system must produce more highly trained, successful students with writing and critical thinking skills. They said schools in depressed regions must take a greater part in economic development.
“In Greensboro, the community is going to demand that from the university,” said Martin Lancaster, president of the community college system. “In northeastern North Carolina, it may have to be the other way around.”
They also agreed that the growing Latino population must be included, even if it means shouldering criticism for serving illegal immigrants.
Priscilla Taylor, a commission member from the UNC board, said it would be criminal to exclude the state’s Hispanic population from the university system.
Lancaster agreed, saying: “We can’t refuse to educate a single person.”
Former UNC-Charlotte chancellor Jim Woodward said the issue involves more than political controversy.
“It’s an economic imperative that we attract and serve these kids,” Woodward said.
— Associated Press
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