UNC-Chapel Hill doesn't plan to restructure classes

Staff writerJanuary 26, 2011 

UNC Chapel Hill does not anticipate a major academic restructuring – a la N.C. State University – to deal with ongoing budget cuts.

"We’re going to continually make changes," Robert Winston, chairman of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, said in a recent interview. "There will be some restructuring here and there. But nothing that will shock people and blow them away."

Last week, NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson announced a sweeping plan to eliminate some degree programs and merge departments and, potentially, entire schools.

The announcement was an indication that after four years of budget cuts, that campus could no longer get through the annual budget-cutting exercise by nipping around the periphery.

Woodson wants to rethink the entire university structure instead of gradually slicing away at every department’s budget, as it and other public universities have done for the last several years. At NCSU, budget cuts have already led to the elimination of jobs, class sections and other academic resources.

In Chapel Hill, UNC-CH's strategy is to assume cuts are coming and prepare for them as early as possible. To that end, Provost Bruce Carney pushed deans last October to start planning for cuts of 5 and 10 percent for next year, which for UNC-CH would be $26 and $52 million, respectively.

Normally, that wouldn't take place until March or April, Carney told trustees Wednesday afternoon. UNC-CH officials accelerated the exercise to allow more time to prepare for the cuts.

And UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp has already announced a five percent permanent budget cut effective July 1. That gives deans and department heads a half year to plan for the reductions.

"We’ll try to shield teaching and research and protect our ability to provide need-based financial aid," Thorp wrote in an e-mail to faculty and staff. "Admittedly, however, that will be harder to do moving forward because of the cumulative effects of the cuts we’ve taken so far."

Keep in mind: These cuts are for the next budget year. On top of that, universities have been asked to return to the state 3.5 percent of their spending for the current year, which, of course, is already half over. They must do so by March 1.

Read more about this in Thursday's News & Observer.

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