UNC leaders see dire harm

Staff writersApril 13, 2011 

UNC campus leaders reacted strongly to the budget proposal Tuesday, saying cuts above 15 percent would deal a severe blow to the quality of education for 222,000 students in North Carolina.

N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said such a cut would do permanent damage, costing 550 to 700 jobs, including up to 200 faculty positions on his campus. "There's no way to cut that much and keep the academic strength of the institution the same," he said.

It also would increase the time it takes to graduate, boosting the number of students in practically every class section taught and reducing the number of sections, he said.

"This would be a large and dramatic change for the entire university system, and it would be just devastating to manage," Woodson said. "I know that cuts are necessary and they have to deal with the problems with the state budget, but this level of cutting would do permanent damage and be difficult for us to recover from."

Universities are prepared to shoulder North Carolina's budget woes, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp said, but the UNC system cut proposed by House budget writers is disproportionate.

"At Carolina, state dollars primarily support undergraduate instruction, so absorbing permanent cuts of this magnitude - more than $75 million - would mean long-term damage to how faculty can teach students," Thorp said in a statement. "The cuts would also require reducing the number of course sections we can offer and increasing the size of classes for our students."

Though House budget writers say the UNC cut totals 15.5 percent, the reduction is actually more like 17.4 percent, UNC officials insist, if proposed financial aid cuts and other line items are added. That percentage figure does not take into account revenue from tuition; UNC system leaders have proposed tuition increases averaging 6.8 percent across the system.

Community college leaders were still analyzing the documents Tuesday but said they were pleased that House budget writers included money to accommodate more students. The overall cut to community colleges would be 10 percent.

"Of course, 10 percent is going to come with some amount of pain," said Linda Weiner, a vice president with the community college system.

jane.stancill@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4559

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