Should public colleges and universities be judged and funded primarily by how well they groom students for the job market?
Yes, they should, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said this week in a radio interview with conservative talk-show host Bill Bennett, offering pointed criticism for college courses he says offer no path to jobs.
Citing the need for more engineers, technicians, and mechanics, McCrory said he has instructed his staff to draft legislation that could alter the way the schools are funded, “not based on how many butts in seats, but how many of those butts can get jobs.”
His comments drew fire from University of North Carolina system faculty and others who said higher education should teach more than job-specific skills. They also renewed debate about the purpose of a college education—and the value of liberal-arts instruction.
McCrory’s statement that he wants to change the way state universities are funded, rewarding those that are best at preparing students for jobs, hit a raw nerve with many in the state’s higher-education community who believe a university education should prepare a person for more than getting a job after graduation.
Anne Whisnant, a UNC history professor, said educators have taken to social media and other outlets to voice their concerns about the governor’s placing primary value on students landing a job after earning degrees.
“One aspect is that the governor apparently does not have a deep understanding of a liberal-arts education,” Whisnant said.
(Next page: What is the mission of a public university?)