To cut budget, N.C. State faces major scholastic reorganization

Staff writerJanuary 18, 2011 

Randy Woodson

N.C. State University leaders are planning a massive reorganization that will eliminate degree programs and merge whole departments and probably entire colleges.

Chancellor Randy Woodson said that NCSU faces a cut of up to $80 million from its annual state budget allocation beginning with the next fiscal year.

The cut is almost certainly permanent, and so large that the only way to prevent damage to the university’s mission to was to rethink its entire structure rather than simply telling every department to cut the same percentage.

With such a massive cut, he said, layoffs among the university's 8,000 faculty and staff members are inevitable. In turn, that will mean larger class sizes, fewer sections and more difficulty for students in getting the classes they need to graduate on time.

The reorganization will reduce the number of layoffs by making the organization more efficient, but won’t come close to generating enough savings to prevent them, Woodson said.

It’s unclear which programs, departments and schools will be affected, but the reorganization will move quickly. Woodson said he had appointed Provost Warwick Arden and Vice Chancellor Charles Leffler to develop a plan by March 15, and said that the changes outlined in the plan would begin June 1. The new budget year begins July 1.

The legislature hasn’t begun work on the state budget yet, so it’s also unclear just how deep the cuts from the state will be. Still, the reduction is certain to be so substantial that there is no doubt the reorganization will be needed, Woodson said. If it doesn’t total $80 million, he said, the university will use the remainder to bolster academic missions that are part of the university’s central role in the state, such as engineering.

There aren’t enough faculty as it is, he said, so it would be easy to find areas to strengthen.

The entire 16-campus UNC system is scrambling to plan for cuts of up to 15 percent in the state’s allocation.

And in some ways, NCSU’s initiative mirrors that of the entire system. System President Tom Ross recently enlisted former UNC-Charlotte Chancellor James Woodward in the effort to identify academic duplication across the system that could be eliminated.

Woodward, who last year finished up a term as interim chancellor while NCSU picked a new one, has become the system’s go-to man for major short-term assignments.

Ross said that, for example, if too many campuses offer the same major, it may be eliminated in some places. Or programs offered at several institutions that are close to each other may be operated as one. Or a program on one campus might be replaced by an online equivalent offered at another university.

Woodson said that NCSU had begun its effort before hearing about the system-wide initiative, but would coordinate with the system.

The reorganization at NCSU, he said, would include a consolidation of the business offices that are spread in departments all over campus into a few “regional” offices to handle functions such as human resources, travel and grant contract administration.

Jay.price@newsobserver.com

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