State Politics

Budget calls for UNC system and community colleges cuts

Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan would increase tuition at the state’s community colleges, give veterans in-state tuition rates and force the UNC system to find cuts of 2 percent, or about $50 million.

But the budget also provides new spending and $49 million for expected enrollment growth in the UNC system, so the overall university budget cut is 1.2 percent.

The “efficiency” reductions are left up to UNC system leaders, but they are barred from cutting financial aid. Five campuses are also exempt from the budget knife – Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, UNC Asheville, UNC School of the Arts and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

New university spending includes $8 million for East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, which is fighting for its survival. Elizabeth City State University, which has struggled with a decline in students, would get an additional $1.9 million for technology upgrades.

McCrory emphasized that he’s putting new money into funds aimed at startups and commercialization of university research. A proposed Venture Multiplier Fund would spend $15 million a year, and a university commercialization program would spend $7.5 million in the next two years to help move discoveries to market.

UNC President Tom Ross issued a statement saying he appreciated McCrory’s proposed commercialization funding and his recognition of the value of UNC’s research efforts.

Ross said the UNC system has worked hard on efficiency measures in recent years.

“We are disappointed to see an additional cut of 2% proposed and no salary raises for faculty and staff as the state’s economy continues to recover and grow,” Ross said.

Budget Director Lee Roberts said the overall reduction of $26 million amounts to a very small part of the university’s total budget.

The state’s community college system would see a $3 million decrease in enrollment funding to match a 1.6 percent drop in students from last year. But the system would receive $5 million to upgrade its College Information System, the central data system of student information and operations.

The budget would raise community college tuition by 5.5 percent. Tuition would climb from $72 per credit hour to $76 per credit hour, costing the average full-time student an additional $128 a year.

KEY STAT: The overall UNC system budget is reduced by $26 million, while the N.C. Community College System is down $13.6 million from last year.

DOWN ON PRIVATE FUNDRAISING: McCrory’s budget would limit the use of state dollars to $1 million at each campus for private fundraising efforts. That would affect 12 campuses and reduce university funding in that area by $18 million.

HOW LIKELY? It’s unclear whether the legislature will go for McCrory’s proposals for venture and commercialization spending that would boost university research.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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