Expensive Free Tuition in NC

, Larry Scholer, Leave a comment

North Carolina students looking for a free ride need only to gain acceptance at the state’s selective governor’s school. The state currently guarantees graduates of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) free tuition to any public state university.

A new report challenges the worth of this tuition waiver program and pans it as a waste of taxpayer money. The Pope Center of Higher Education Policy in Raleigh has debunked the anticipated benefits of the program and makes the case for its abolition. The program “produces no public benefit, costs the state money, and unfairly discriminates in favor of NCSSM graduates,” according to the Pope Center.

The NCSSM opened in 1980, and the state legislature implemented the tuition deal in 2003. Legislators suggested that the program would bolster the state’s economy by keeping intelligent workers in the state. The waiver also, according to its supporters, would attract students to the school. The program would alleviate the negative aspect of attending the state-funded boarding school—being away from home and not being allowed a car.

Actually, NCSSM has never had a problem attracting students, as the Pope Center found:

From 1999 to 2003, NCSSM enrolled fewer than half of the incoming juniors who applied for admittance, enrolling approximately 300 students after receiving more than 600 applicants. In 2001 and 2002, NCSSM received more than 760 applicants, in both years, and admitted 302 students in 2001 and 292 in 2002. The school was turning away applicants prior to the institution of the tuition waiver, so it is impossible to give credence to the notion that it is necessary to have it to overcome the supposed sacrifice of attending.

The report also questions whether the tuition waiver incentive is an incentive at all. The majority of NCSSM graduates have attended North Carolina colleges and universities, with more going to public schools than private schools. Under the current program, the state is covering tuition payments that, for the most part, students and their families would have financed in years prior to 2003.

Although taxpayer money now goes to pay for the college education of NCSSM’s students, who hold the distinction as the state’s best and brightest, the school’s and students’ quality has been declining. Grades at the school have been on the rise, with the number of A’s given rising nearly 10 percent from 1999-2003. SAT scores are also on the decline. While the school still boasts the state’s highest average, its scores have dropped 27 points from 2002. Meanwhile, other state schools, like Raleigh Charter High School, have seen their SAT scores rise.

The NCSSM has also lowered its graduation requirements and shifted its focus away from math and science.

Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.