UNC Leaders Debate: Jobs, Or Knowledge?

Tim Goral's picture

Should college be a meandering journey of intellectual exploration or a straight line to a good job? What’s more worthwhile for today’s undergraduate – Aristotle or aerospace engineering? Biotech or British lit?

There’s no right answer, but UNC system leaders are thinking that college and career should be linked more closely for the sake of students and the state’s economy. In the past few months, a panel of corporate, higher education and government leaders has pored over projections about North Carolina’s future workforce as it crafts a five-year strategy for the state’s public universities.

The UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions may set a goal of boosting the percentage of college degree earners among North Carolina adults from 28 percent to 31 or 32 percent by 2018. It’s also looking at quality and efficiency and whether a UNC education is adequately preparing students for 21st-century jobs.

The debate comes at a time when American higher education faces heightened pressure. The public is demanding more accountability as tuition rises and college completion lags. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt in the United States. Newly minted, underemployed college grads are beginning to wonder whether their diploma really is the ticket to prosperity.

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