North Carolina’s higher-ed institutions address degree value

North Carolina’s higher-ed institutions address degree value

2022-07-15T07:24:11-04:00July 6th, 2022|Education, Raleigh-Durham|

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Writer: Liz Palmer

3 min read July 2022 The discourse around a postsecondary education’s value proposition has reached the college and university system in North Carolina. In different conversations with Invest:,  higher-education institutions shared their thoughts on the dip in enrollment, partly linked to perceptions that a degree today has less value, and what their approach will be moving forward. 

A report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in May found that undergraduate enrollment has continued to see stark declines, having dropped by 9.4% since before the pandemic. ECMC Group’s president and CEO Jeremy Wheaton said in an interview that the numbers indicate young people choosing other options after graduating from high school rather than a four-year degree. “Students now have to take into account that it’s going to cost more and the wild card of loan forgiveness. The more change that you put into the system, the more folks pull back.”

On an episode of Capital Analytics’ “Invest Insights” podcast, president of Campbell University J. Bradley Creed quoted his grandfather while discussing the evergreen value of higher education. “An education is one of those things that, once you have it, nobody can ever take it away from you,” Creed said. 

He said the most common misconception he sees today in higher education is that its value proposition is in question. “There’s no doubt that the cost of getting a higher education has increased, but study after study will show that in a number of leading indicators – whether it’s wellness and health, index of happiness, satisfaction of life, financial investment –  if you want to ensure that you have a better life, then get a college education,” he said. “It is going to pay off in the end. We do all that we can here at Campbell as a private university to raise scholarship funds and our donors are very generous because many of them have benefited from that and they know that value.” Creed said Georgetown University reported Campbell ranking No. 8 in North Carolina for return of investment and in the top 20 nationally. 

North Carolina Wesleyan University’s president, Evan Duff, told Invest: the institution has made the modern student experience a priority through being “personal, practical and purpose-driven,” achieved by providing services such as one-on-one mentorships, learning opportunities that are relevant to students’ personal and professional experiences and needs and implementing a Practical Skills Academy (PSA) “where we help students understand concepts such as employment forms, financing a car, preliminary steps to investing, self care, cooking a basic meal and selling yourself with your organization and presenting ideas,” he said. “We want students to have a holistic and complete set of skills to be successful. PSA will be a co-curricular component that will have workshops every semester. All of our activities and interactions with students are intentional to help them find their purpose in life.”

In this new chapter of postsecondary education, Central Carolina Community College’s president Lisa Chapman is unwaveringly committed to partnerships to facilitate economic development in the community. “Part of what we will do as we move into the next few years is to ensure that the college is providing an experience that allows individuals to grow in their careers and continue their education,” she told Invest:. “We need to ensure that everybody is at the table, learning together, so we can provide the support that companies need. Progress is best when it includes the people who are in the communities.”

Chapman applauded North Carolina’s state government for its support of dual enrollment initiatives that translates to the Central Carolina Promise, which she says covers tuition. “If you successfully complete the prescribed amount of dual enrollment and you come to the college within a two-year period (this will result in) debt-free access to advanced education and training.” 

Thomas Stith, president of the North Carolina Community College System, touched on affordability and accessibility in the form of grants and scholarships for high school graduates. “This is a time where the cost is a huge barrier, but we mitigate it in the community college system through these means,” he told Invest:. “The philosophy of the community college system is that we are an open door. We take students as far as they can go.”

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