Under the Dome

NC House budget reduces cut for UNC system

Graduates endure rainy conditions in Kenan Stadium during UNC's commencement ceremony Sunday, May 10, 2015 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The N.C. House budget would force cuts in the UNC system.
Graduates endure rainy conditions in Kenan Stadium during UNC's commencement ceremony Sunday, May 10, 2015 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The N.C. House budget would force cuts in the UNC system. jhknight@newsobserver.com

An earlier version of this post omitted UNC Asheville as one of the smaller UNC system campuses that would be exempted from cuts under the budget proposal.

The N.C. House proposed budget for higher education softens the blow of the 2 percent university spending cut Gov. Pat McCrory called for in March.

Instead of calling for UNC system in cuts of $50 million – a key provision of McCrory’s budget – the House plan would require a $26 million cut.

And UNC system administrators wouldn’t be allowed to pass along an across-the-board cut to each campus. The budget would ban any cuts to financial aid programs or to five smaller campuses: Elizabeth City State University, UNC Asheville, Fayetteville State University, the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics and the UNC School of the Arts.

The budget provision would force faculty members to “have a teaching workload equal to the national average in their Carnegie classification,” a mandate that could mean higher course loads for some professors.

Other highlights of the higher education spending plan include:

Growth pressures: The budget allocates $49.32 million in the next fiscal year to cover the additional 3,300 students expected. Overall, the UNC system budget would increase $33.1 million, or about 1 percent – leading to the need for cuts.

Fundraising funds: House budget writers agreed with McCrory that UNC system campuses shouldn’t spend more than $1 million of state money on fundraising efforts. Putting a cap on that spending would results in a $17.9 million cut next year.

New teacher program: The N.C. New Teacher Support Program, which offers support and training to beginning teachers through state universities, would get an additional $1.5 million. That would put its total budget at $2.7 million.

Research: Funding for what the House terms “game-changing research” at universities would increase from $3 million to $5 million.

Community college tuition: As in McCrory’s budget, the House would hike community college tuition from $72 per credit hour to $76 per credit hour, costing the average full-time student an additional $128 a year.

Private college scholarships: The N.C. Need-Based Scholarship, which helps disadvantaged students pay tuition at private colleges, would increase by $2.5 million to $88.9 million.

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