By Alexandra Forter Sirota
Director, Budget & Tax Center
North Carolina has been nationally recognized for its public university system and the innovative efforts to increase the skills training of workers through the community college system. Access to these systemsis critical not only because post-secondary education is increasingly seen as one of the few pathways to the middle class but also because higher educational attainment of a state’s workforce is highly related to productivity in the economy and higher wages for the median North Carolina worker. In recent years, state investment in the supports to increase student access and completion has declined significantly. The result is significant pressure on students and families to assume a greater responsibility for paying for their educational programs that could translate into a failure to prepare North Carolinians for the jobs of the future and participation in a strong democracy.