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John Hood’s column “State ranks high in education funding,” appearing in your Tuesday edition was a valuable reminder that North Carolina has established, supported and reaped the benefits of the most affordable, high-quality public university system in the U.S. This investment has and will continue to serve us well.
We are also blessed with a network of more than 35 private institutions which are members of the North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. These schools, the vast majority of which have a church heritage, play a significant role in the great quality of higher education opportunities available to our citizens.
Historically our legislature has recognized the role of these private institutions in educating our large student population by providing financial aid — now need-based — to those enrolled at them. This strategy has been very cost-effective. It became apparent when the N.C. Legislative Tuition Grant was begun that providing this aid was far less expensive than building enough classrooms and residence halls to meet the enrollment demand that would have existed without the private institutions in operation.
What has emerged is a rich tapestry of diverse public and independent institutions to meet enrollment demands. Our network of independent institutions must rely heavily on tuition and donor contributions to fund salaries, facilities and operations. These colleges and universities must receive sustained financial aid allocations for in-state students in order to preserve this delicate balance of educational opportunities. Doing so will allow North Carolina to continue to be the national leader in higher education.
Gary W. Hall
The writer is director of grants and student philanthropy at Barton College.