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News Release

For immediate use

Jan. 24, 2007

North Carolina Voices series to focus on barriers
to college access, future of higher education

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC, a service of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will launch a weeklong series beginning Monday (Jan. 29) that will explore growing racial and economic divides in access to higher education.

Titled “North Carolina Voices: Considering College,” the series is the latest installment of the station’s award-winning North Carolina Voices project. It will examine the impact of recent demographic trends on the future of higher education and state and national economies.

The “Considering College” series extends the station’s commitment to covering education issues that affect the state, and it will air within North Carolina Public Radio’s broadcasts of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” and the station’s midday talk program “The State of Things.” The series also will be available on the Web at www.wunc.org, and will be offered to public radio stations nationwide at www.prx.org.

Seeking answers to questions such as, “Who goes to college today, who doesn’t and why?” the series will explore what makes college access difficult for low-income and minority students and what can be done about it. It will analyze what difference a college degree might make, whether American universities are doing a good job preparing students for the new economy, and the reasons many college students drop out. The series also will examine what choices middle class families are making for their children as college costs skyrocket.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only college graduates have seen their real incomes rise over the last 25 years while earnings for all other groups have remained flat or dropped. In a rapidly changing economy such as North Carolina’s, a college degree can mean the difference between bouncing back from a layoff, or ending up with a job that pays less – or no job at all.

The good news is more Americans are going to college than ever before. But a closer look at the numbers reveals some troubling realities. While college enrollment has increased significantly among blacks and Latinos, minority students still are much less likely than whites to go to college and complete their degrees.

The “Considering College” series broadcast will coincide with the 2007 annual Emerging Issues Forum, “Transforming Higher Education: A Competitive Advantage for North Carolina.” The forum, which will be held Feb. 1 and 2 at the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State University, is a program of the Institute for Emerging Issues, a public policy group at N.C. State. (For more information, visit www.emergingissues.org.) This year’s forum will bring state and national leaders together to discuss ideas in higher education to help North Carolina’s universities and colleges respond to the changing needs of society.  

“Access to the benefits of a higher education is a critical issue for North Carolina and the nation,” said Emily Hanford, senior editor at North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC. “We hope that the ‘Considering College’ series will enlighten listeners on a topic some may not be aware of and further the statewide and national discussion of this important issue.”

North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC will host and record a special panel discussion on the future of higher education during the forum. Panel guests include James Hunt, former governor of North Carolina; Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system; Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board; and Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair, senior state executive for IBM. The discussion will be broadcast on “The State of Things” at noon Feb. 2, and the entire forum will be streamed live and archived on www.wunc.org.  

North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC is a service of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, broadcasting at 91.5 FM in the Triangle and Triad, at 90.9 FM in Rocky Mount/Wilson, and at 88.9 FM on the Outer Banks.

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North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC contact: Emily Hanford, (301) 270-0039, ehanford@wunc.org
News Services contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093, lisa_katz@unc.edu