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Proposal to merge community colleges criticized

Posted July 13, 2011
Updated July 14, 2011

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— Lawmakers are considering consolidating some of North Carolina's 58 community colleges to save money, but college officials panned the idea Wednesday.

A recent legislative study found that the community college system is inefficient because each of the campuses is locally autonomous. They lack uniform policies and procedures, and administrative costs per student are about 50 percent higher at smaller colleges, according to the study.

Merging colleges with fewer than 3,000 students into larger campuses nearby could save the state more than $5 million a year by 2018 by combining back-office functions like payroll and information technology and eliminating some administrative positions, according to the study.

"It would be devastating to our citizens and our students," Charlotte Griffin, board chairwoman at Martin Community College, in Williamston, told a legislative oversight committee.

Johnston Community College is large enough that it wouldn't be directly impacted by the proposal, but President David Johnson said he felt compelled to speak out against the idea of creating more multi-campus colleges.

"If we're changing a name and we're merging a campus with another, you are closing that institution," Johnson told lawmakers.

North Carolina Community College System sign Proposal to merge community colleges criticized

Sen. Debbie Clary, the chairwoman of the oversight committee, said the details of any consolidation plan haven't been worked out yet.

"No one has talked about closing a college. No one has talked about taking the identity of a local community college," said Clary, R-Cleveland. "I think there's been a lot of emotion generated, and when that happens, there's a lot of false rhetoric."

Scott Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community College System, said he worries about the lack of details.

"We heard things today that were not necessarily in the report," Ralls said after the meeting. "It just means a lot more analysis needs to go into it."

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  • jason19 Jul 15, 2011

    "That would be a great move, all community colleges should go this way, the state would have all the colleges, cut the money to all then raise all the rates to attend. I attended a private school for 4 years and NEVER had a rate hike it that time. Got a great education and great support group, even the instructors would call if I missed a class and check on me. Does the community or state schools do that......No just take your money....."

    Let me get this straight. You admit that you went to a private college. Then, you go on to say what's wrong with community colleges, despite not haven attended one. You may want to check to see if your view is a little -- putting it politely -- biased.

  • Sherlock Jul 15, 2011

    That would be a great move, all community colleges should go this way, the state would have all the colleges, cut the money to all then raise all the rates to attend. I attended a private school for 4 years and NEVER had a rate hike it that time. Got a great education and great support group, even the instructors would call if I missed a class and check on me. Does the community or state schools do that......No just take your money.....

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jul 14, 2011

    Isn't the whole point of Community colleges to be...ummm...in the community?

    When they created them, they knew they'd have higher admin costs...but that's not the point. The point is to give more people a chance to make something significant of themselves.

  • Retired07 Jul 14, 2011

    The technical colleges in NC has been one of the best things available to the larger majority of students and displaced workers. They represent one of the few things managed by the state that has largely succeeded long term. Much of the appeal is the local availability to as many students as possible without the long commutes and extended hours to working students. Don t "fix" one of the few things that is going right under state management.

  • jason19 Jul 14, 2011

    "SOME community colleges are inefficient, like Wake Tech. When I registered there, I was referred to six different offices because nobody knew where I was supposed to go. I received a parking ticket even though I had parked in visitor parking. When I tried to call to explain, they put me on hold for 45 minutes to get rid of me. I finally got fed up with their bureaucratic BS and transferred to Vance-Granville. Wake Tech has sent "alumni" letters ever since asking for donations."
    --brassy

    I agree, and the irony to me is that the state -- as usual -- is not targeting the least efficient of the group. You could trim $10 million from Wake Tech, CPCC, and and Guilford Tech -- the ones that actually have some level of fat -- without even blinking an eye and probably without any job losses, too.

    And I am not even suggesting that such a thing happen. I am just saying that it's pretty funny how they are targeting places that really don't have any real fat to begin with.

  • brassy Jul 14, 2011

    SOME community colleges are inefficient, like Wake Tech. When I registered there, I was referred to six different offices because nobody knew where I was supposed to go. I received a parking ticket even though I had parked in visitor parking. When I tried to call to explain, they put me on hold for 45 minutes to get rid of me. I finally got fed up with their bureaucratic BS and transferred to Vance-Granville. Wake Tech has sent "alumni" letters ever since asking for donations.

    Maybe what the colleges need is competition.

  • jason19 Jul 14, 2011

    Another thing to think about: many community colleges have grants that were purposed specifically for those colleges, *not* for satellites of other colleges. For example, some alumi give grants and other money to Wake Tech. However, if Wake Tech were suddenly part of Central Piedmont, it would invalidate most of those scholarships simply because many donors want to give to individual, autonomous institutions, not the system as a whole. And this is private money were are talking about, not taxpayer money.

    Many grants would be lost as a result, probably costing the state at least as much as it would save. This would especially be true years from now, as the amount of missed grants increased.

  • tran Jul 14, 2011

    The community colleges have been a bargain for NC. They do exactly what they were intended to do. They are community based and responsive to the needs of the community.

    As for graduates not finding employment, that is more due to the sorry state of the economy. Heck, McDonalds job fair earlier this year demonstrated that. They had 62,000 jobs to fill nationwide and got 1,000,000 applications. 6.2% is more selective than Harvard.

    My wife changed careers after getting an AAS degree from Wake Tech in a course of study available at all the community colleges. As a result, she has had a lucrative career for the past 20 years.

    Even with a Bachelor degree, I found addition training at Wake Tech beneficial at one point. I'm thankful it was available, inexpensive and convenient.

    This is the worst time to close community colleges, when people need them most.

  • jbarron4950 Jul 14, 2011

    All of the white leadership has been run away...ecu4me2

    The white leadership? And just who ran them away?

  • jbarron4950 Jul 14, 2011

    From the news story, with savings totaling $5 million a year, it would appear they they are talking about combining schools to save on adminstrative expenses (like having the need for one college president instead of 2) rather than elimating campus locations.......concreteman

    The article didn't say $5 million per year. The article read and I quote, "Merging colleges with fewer than 3,000 students into larger campuses nearby could save the state more than $5 million a year by 2018."

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