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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. Colleges Fall Short in Ranking

Affordable, but not beneficial enough to the state or accessible enough to students - this was the judgment passed Thursday about higher education in North Carolina by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

The organization released Measuring Up 2000, a report card assessing each state's higher education performance in six categories.

The report graded each state in terms of relative affordability of institutions, the percentage of 18- to 44-year-olds that participates in college, the percentage that completes their educations, how well college students in each state learn, the benefits each state reaps from its higher education institutions and how well each state's students are prepared for college.

North Carolina received a "D" in participation, a "D-plus" in benefits to the state, a "B" in student preparation, a "B-plus" in completion, an "A" in affordability and an "incomplete" in learning.

All 50 states received incompletes in the learning category because they did not have necessary data available.

All two- and four-year institutions - both public and private - were included in the report.

The report noted that the small percentage of North Carolinians with bachelor's degrees impairs the state's economy, resulting in a low grade in the category of benefits to the state.

UNC Association of Student Governments President Andrew Payne said that despite the low benefits grade, the UNC system is still a key component of the state's economy.

"The University of North Carolina system is the greatest economic generator for the state of North Carolina," Payne said.

He said the state can increase both its benefit and participation grade by increasing access to system schools.

"If we could plug more high school students into the system, we will see its full benefits," Payne said.

UNC-system President Molly Broad also said the state's public university system can increase its grade in the participation category by stressing the importance of higher education while potential students are still in secondary school.

"We need to reach out to the students and families of eighth- and ninth-graders," Broad said.

The report also states that North Carolina allots a relatively small amount of financial aid for low-income students and their families. But Broad added that solving this problem is a top priority for N.C. universities.

The system is seeking full funding from the N.C. General Assembly for a state need-based financial aid program that will provide more than $30 million for needy students.

Although Gov. Jim Hunt is the chairman of The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, his office declined to comment on the report.

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