October 8, 2015

One of the saddest economic statistics around says nearly half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed in a job that doesn’t require a college education. Combined with trillions in student loan debt, it’s a big reason why America’s economy doesn’t perform anymore.

Clearly, higher education needs reform to cut tuition prices, focus on key priorities and channel students into obtaining degrees they can actually use to get a job.

The search for a new President for the University of North Carolina system should mark a genuine moment of reform. The Board of Governors could hire someone with a track record of advocating cuts in university bureaucracy to bring down costs and lower tuition, which would reduce student loan debt. Academics like Ohio University economist Richard Vedder, University of Indiana President Mitch Daniel and North Carolina’s own Bill Bennett come to mind.

Or we could choose an entrepreneur with an interest in education, someone who knows what’s needed in the real world. Past university Presidents C.D. Spangler and Erskine Bowles are examples.

But if the Raleigh rumor mill is right, the search committee’s finalists aren’t academic reformers or entrepreneurs.

For example, three of the heavily rumored finalists are former Common Sense Foundation employee and current State Treasurer Janet Cowell, Duke CEO for a day Bill Johnson, and corporate banker Catherine Bessant. Not exactly a transformational group of reformers to guide the UNC system in today’s political environment.

Let’s take Ms. Bessant for example. We’re sure she is a nice lady but the Board of Governor’s couldn’t have a more PC choice.

From producing videos extolling the benefits same-sex marriage has on North Carolina’s business climate, to funding Planned Parenthood to kowtowing to the NAACP’s demands for cheap community development loans in exchange for the NAACP’s support of bank mergers, Ms. Bessant has been on the politically correct side every time.

She’s currently the point person for her bank’s $50 billion lending spree for wind, solar and other green energy projects. That’s PC. And her presentations at stockholders meetings on how the bank has reduced its global warming carbon footprint are PC squared.

Ms. Bessant’s political donations are the epitome of PC. Bev Perdue. Mike Easley. A couple of token Republicans. Marc Basnight. The Democratic Party. Chris Dodd. Hillary Clinton.

If the rumors are right and these are the types of candidates the Board of Governor’s is focusing on, voters who thought electing a Republican governor and a Conservative reform-minded legislature might shake things up are going to be sorely disappointed.

Our state funded university system deserves a bold new leader who will tackle the bloated, high-cost UNC bureaucracy, finally end the scandals over no-show courses, stop using the university to advance PC social causes, and refocus on the core mission of teaching our children skills that will help them find a job.