A free-market agenda that threatens UNC system
UNC system president Margaret Spellings recently hired Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute, as senior vice president for strategy and policy for UNC's system. The hiring of Mr. Kelly highlights a transition of the UNC systems approach to education policy, under the leadership of Margaret Spellings, using higher public education as a tool to promote their conservative ideology and that of their Republican backers in the state in supporting their agenda, rather than serving the students in an amicable way at achieving their goals of acquiring a sound education.
The AEI, for which Kelly wrote about higher education policy, is the tool of its ultraconservative funders, which include the Olin, Scaife, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Adolph Coors and Smith Richardson Foundations. Other super wealthy supporters, including Charles and David Koch, give the AEI millions of dollars through dark money channels, such as DonorsTrust.
What donors get for their money is ideological support for a free-market, anti-regulation, anti-labor agenda. AEI “scholars” produce op-eds, reports and policy discussion papers that oppose raising the minimum wage, support voter ID laws, oppose single-payer health care, oppose tougher regulations on Wall Street banksters and deny climate change.
What comes out of the AEI is not scholarship but pseudo-scholarship tailored to advance the economic interests of its funders. This is the world from which Kelly comes to UNC, to undertake the task of making policies that stand to affect the quality of public higher education in North Carolina for generations to come
Curiously missing from Kelly’s analysis of rising tuition costs and college affordability is attention to the role played by a decline in direct state funding. In the 1970s, states on average provided about 75 percent of funding for public higher education. Today, the figure is about 25 percent. Tuition rates have risen to make up the difference.
In other words, affordability is now a problem because the burden of paying for college has been shifted onto the backs of middle-class families. Kelly ignores this, likely because of why the shift has occurred: the anti-tax and shrink-the-government policies championed by outfits like the American Enterprise Institute.
The hiring of Mr. Kelly under UNC system President Margaret Spellings continues a unfortunate trend growing in North Carolina's higher public education, where affordability and a focus on education have become less prioritized as President Spellings and fellow Republicans promote a conservative agenda at the expense of the state's students.