Layoffs, closures loom at UNC

Chancellor Holden Thorp says state budget cuts will cost more jobs and force closing buildings.

Staff WriterJuly 28, 2011 

  • Wade H. Hargrove of Raleigh was sworn in as chairman for the UNC-CH Board of Trustees on Wednesday. He is a corporate and national media lawyer and partner with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard. He earned a bachelor's degree from UNC-CH and a JD from UNC Law School.

    Three new members joined the board: W. Lowry Caudill of Durham, co-founder of Magellan Laboratories; Steven Lerner of Chapel Hill, appointed by the UNC Board of Governors; and Student Body President Mary Cooper.

— State budget cuts will force more layoffs and could force closing some buildings on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, Chancellor Holden Thorp said Wednesday.

The university faces a $100 million cut in state funding this fiscal year, a cut of 17.9 percent.

Part of the loss in state funding will be offset by a one-time $20 million payment from the UNC Health Care system, but Thorp said the university faces "difficult choices about our priorities."

The cuts will make it harder to attract and retain faculty members and to keep class sizes low. Course offerings also will be reduced, Thorp said.

"There will be measurable damage," he said.

Thorp did not predict job-loss numbers for the new fiscal year. Last year, 115 employees were laid off: 91 non-faculty employees and 24 faculty members and administrators. The university focused on cutting nonacademic areas as much as possible first, which has left support departments thin.

More layoffs could result in campus buildings closing, Vice Chancellor Richard Mann told the board of trustees in a meeting at the Carolina Inn.

"We are facing a significant gap in operations," he said. "We have a number of buildings we're concerned about. ...We might not be able to keep them open."

Less state money will affect the academic structure of the university and prolong the freeze on employee salaries and make it more difficult to attract and retain prestigious professors and faculty, Provost Bruce Carney said.

"These have real impacts on our students and the debt they will graduate with," he said. "Compared to other universities, UNC is well supported, but it's on a downward trend. ... We are falling behind our peers in the amount of support per student."

State appropriations will make up 17.9 percent of the university's total revenue this fiscal year, down from 20.9 percent last year.

As state funding drops, however, the amount of government contracts and grants and private gifts has increased.

Last fiscal year, the university received $277 million from private donors and $305.6 million in donation commitments.

Both are up from the previous year, gifts increasing 3.3 percent and commitments increasing 5 percent.

"You talk about having a great product to sell and selling the dream, it's right there," said Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for university advancement.

katelyn.ferral@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8746

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