University and community college leaders from eastern North Carolina are embarking on a two-day bus tour today to build support for the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum.
Chancellors from UNC-Pembroke, Fayetteville State University and UNC-Wilmington will join the presidents of a dozen community colleges on a "two-day blitz" to meet with media and residents in 16 southeastern N.C. counties.
The tour will begin in Morehead City and wrap up in Wilmington on Wednesday.
Martin Lancaster, president of the N.C. Community College System, will speak at the tour's closing ceremonies.
The two-day trip is designed to gather voter support for a referendum that would permit the sale of bonds to fund capital improvement projects at North Carolina's public university and community college campuses.
The state's voters will decide on the proposal - the largest bond in state history - Nov. 7.
UNC-P spokesman Scott Bigelow said this year's tour is similar to one held in 1993 to gain support for a bond package to that went to fund community colleges.
Bigelow said the bus tour coincides with a publicity push from North Carolinians for Educational Opportunity, the organization coordinating the campaign, which recently began airing commercials in support of the bond.
Carteret Community College President Joseph Barwick said the tour will encourage people to vote for the bond.
He said improving facilities will benefit not only the colleges and universities but the communities they serve as well.
Barwick also said cooperation between UNC-system chancellors and community college presidents will demonstrate the bond's importance to the citizens of southeastern North Carolina.
"People will see that the chancellors and the community colleges are working together," Barwick said.
Lauren Burgess, Fayetteville State spokeswoman, also said the UNC system and community college alliance will encourage support for the bond package.
"The cooperation between UNC schools and community colleges points to just how important the bond referendum is in North Carolina," Burgess said.
The bond package would also fund the state's public higher education facilities to accommodate a projected 30 percent growth in student enrollment in the coming decade.
Burgess said Fayetteville State is projected to grow 50 percent in the next 10 years, from 4,000 to nearly 6,000 students.
She said additional residential housing is among the school's needs.
Burgess said students this year were temporarily placed in hotels due to a shortage of student housing.
Barwick said there also is an urgent need for facility expansion at community colleges.
The chancellors and presidents are optimistic that residents will actively participate in the two-day bus tour, Burgess said.
"We're hopeful that the people will show up and see what the referendum is all about because it is important for all North Carolinians."
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