Job cuts at UNC system

Staff WriterFebruary 18, 2011 

A budget plan billed as friendly to universities would cut the UNC system less than other state agencies, but would still eliminate more than 1,400 jobs systemwide.

"I have basically walled off education from any harsh, horrible cuts," Gov. Beverly Perdue said in rolling out her 2011-13 spending plan Thursday. She said she wanted to shelter both K-12 and higher education from the most severe damage.

The UNC system and its campuses would take a 6 percent budget cut under Perdue's plan, less than the 7 percent to 15 percent she proposes for other state agencies. Of the 10,000 jobs eliminated across state government, about 1,450 would come from the UNC system.

University and community college workers would be eligible for an early retirement plan Perdue has floated that she hopes 1,000 state workers will take.

In cutting the UNC system's budget, Perdue advised leaders to focus on senior and middle management positions. But campuses have done that in recent years and may not be able to cut only administrative jobs this time.

UNC system President Tom Ross said Perdue's cuts would have a direct effect on classroom instruction.

"With fewer faculty, staff and course sections, many more students would not be able to obtain the courses and academic services they need to graduate on time," Ross said.

Perdue's budget offers $23 million for UNC system enrollment growth - about half of what the system had requested. The university enrolls more than 215,000 students statewide and projects 2,337 more next fall.

System and campus leaders may not oppose slowing enrollment growth a bit, said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the UNC system's Board of Governors.

"The way we look at enrollment is changing," she said. "Growth is not the most important thing. We're struggling to balance our commitment to quality, and it's never been as difficult."

Perdue said she hopes UNC system students won't face two tuition hikes in one year, as they did last year. The UNC system's governing board just approved tuition increases of about 6 percent, on average, and much of that revenue would be used to mitigate budget cuts. But the legislature could OK a second hike.

Perdue's budget also would create the Career and College Promise, which would pay for a two-year college degree or two years of career training to high school students who meet certain academic criteria. The governor said the program would be free to taxpayers because funding for it would come from a handful of similar programs she plans to either reduce or eliminate.

eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com or 919-932-2008

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