Margaret Spellings, president, University of North Carolina, said she has been reading some disturbing polling. “No one thinks the status quo in higher education is working well.” It’s time for change.

“The New America Foundation reported that 83 percent of working class voters no longer think a college degree is a sure path to success. Pew found that 58 percent of Republicans think higher education is bad for the country.” The polls, she told the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce 2017 Conference on Education2017 Conference on Education, Thursday in Durham.”raise worrisome questions.”

“Far too many people feel excluded from career opportunities,” she said.

Spellings was one of several political and industrial leaders from across the state who spoke at the event focusing on how to win the job wars of the future.

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“I firmly believe more people should go to college. It would be better for our state, the country, the economy and those individuals,” Spellings said. But, she added, “We need a relentless focus on building more on ramps to good jobs. And we must provide more options for access to a degree or more training.”

One problem is that today, “We lack sound coordination and connectedness between schools from pre-school to university. The education continuum is not well developed. We need to make education beyond high school the default option.”

She added, “We need better partnerships with the business community for mid-career people who want to advance. Colleges are not flexible enough in serving working adults and there has been an erosion of employer sponsored training in the last decade.”

The UNC president said higher education in NC is making some advances, such as developing a lot of programs to meet the growing need for nurses and medical technicians. She sees similar advances in teacher training. “None of these reforms are moving as fast as they should, but they’re the kind of things we need. Make education benefits part of your pitch to potential employees, she advised.

“Help them find a pathway to do the job better and advance in the company.”