Voters support colleges

By: - July 1, 2005 6:55 am

Burlington Times-News

Don’t be surprised to see lawmakers and candidates for the General Assembly next year spend a lot of time talking about community colleges.
You’ll hear incumbents talk up how much they’ve done for the community college system. And candidates will make a point of saying how much they support our public community colleges and want to do more for them.
A recent poll shows that there’s quite a bit of support for community colleges in North Carolina among hard-core voters.
The poll was taken by the John William Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank in Raleigh.
Asked what should be done to help ease the problem of the lack of jobs in North Carolina, the No. 1 response was to provide tax credits to small businesses — a response given by 24 percent of those called in the survey.
The No. 2 response, with 20 percent, was to improve community colleges.
Improving the job outlook for North Carolinians wasn’t the only place where community colleges scored well in the poll.
When asked if community colleges spent tax dollars wisely, 53 percent said yes, while 32 percent said no. Another 15 percent weren’t sure.
Community colleges got a larger number of positive responses than other government programs geared toward education.
The next-highest in the series of questions regarding tax dollars being spent wisely was Smart Start, the preschool program initiated by former Gov. Jim Hunt. Fifty percent of those asked answered yes, while 32 percent said no and 18 percent weren’t sure.
Forty-nine percent said that colleges and universities were spending tax money wisely, while 35 percent said no and another 16 percent weren’t sure.
More at Four, Gov. Mike Easley’s program for 4-yearolds considered at risk of failure in schools, didn’t score so well. Only 37 percent said they thought More at Four programs spent tax dollars wisely. Thirty percent said no, while 33 percent weren’t sure.
The survey didn’t ask the same question about public schools.
Jack Hawke, who heads up the institute, said he isn’t sure why community colleges are so favored by the public.
It could be that a number of people have had contact with community colleges and have a positive impression of them. It could be that the recent problems in the economy have highlighted the role of community colleges in job training.
Hawke said he plans to probe further about the support in future polls.
If the trend holds up, you can expect to see more politicians and political consultants singing the praises of community colleges. And don’t be surprised to see that support highlighted on campaign literature next year.
Barry Smith writes for Freedom Communications Inc.’s Raleigh bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

Write to Barry Smith at [email protected]

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066