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The Daily Tar Heel

System Touts Victories, Fights Cuts

The bond referendum's overwhelming passage in November was possibly the highlight of a year in which the system faced possible budget cuts, numerous turnovers in leadership and a growing debate over its tuition-setting policy.

State leaders teamed up with UNC-system and campus officials in the fall to help build support for the bond package.

But the strength of support the UNC system seemed to solidify in November has since been tested in several major areas -- and it remains to be seen how well the system will withstand the pressure.

Bound to the Bond

On Nov. 7, 2000, a campaign designed to build support for the largest bond proposal was proven successful -- overwhelmingly.

For weeks, system officials enlisted higher education advocates from across the state to stage a large-scale campaign that included everything from television commercials to campus rallies to public forums aimed at increasing voters' knowledge of the proposal.

And on Election Day, 74 percent of N.C. voters approved the proposal.

UNC-system President Molly Broad said the fact that three out of four voters in the state supported the bond was the system's greatest accomplishment this year. "It was the most important single action taken in history," she said. "(There has) never been a bond issue anywhere that was the magnitude of ours."

The Tuition Wars

While students, administrators, alumni and faculty alike united behind the need for the bond, these groups often diverged this year when the topic of tuition increases was discussed.

After approving five campus-initiated tuition requests last year, the BOG gave the green light to a second round of tuition increases at six system schools in March -- much to the dismay of many of the system's student leaders.

The Board of Governors' tuition-setting policy allows individual campuses to request tuition increases under "extraordinary circumstances."

Since the policy was adopted two years ago, 11 schools, including UNC-Chapel Hill, have succeeded in receiving tuition increases, mostly to boost faculty salaries.

But the board also decided at its March meeting to re-evaluate its tuition-setting policy because it has passed so many increases since the policy was adopted.

Broad said students could expect some more tuition increases in the future, but that the increases would be made manageable for students.

"I think we are in for a period of regular and moderate growth in tuition, but in ways that would be predictable for students and their families and in ways that would be made earlier in the year that would support the increases," she said.

Fighting for Funding

The UNC system relies on the N.C. General Assembly for the preponderance of its funding, making a strong relationship between the two bodies conducive to the system's success.

But while many legislators turned out to campaign for the bond, some have recently advocated cuts in the system's budget to help eliminate the state's nearly $800 million budget deficit.

A legislative committee recently requested that the system cut 7 percent from its proposed budget -- a total of $125 million. Officials at some campuses have said the cutbacks could require them to reduce faculty positions or financial aid.

But Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, said the General Assembly has a tradition of supporting the UNC system.

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"I don't think what is going on now should be held up as a lack of commitment of the University from the legislature," Lee said, adding that the legislature has given the UNC-system budget flexibility and two bond referendums for campus construction in the past 10 years.

New Faces

Another situation that has put pressure on UNC-system officials is increased turnover among university administrators.

During her three years in office, Broad has had to replace chancellors at eight of the 16 UNC-system schools. Most of the new chancellors, as well as Broad, came from out of state and had little prior connection to North Carolina -- a condition that some say has made it harder for the system to successfully lobby the legislature for funds.

But Sanders said the increased number of out-of-state administrators has not caused any problems.

"If (Molly Broad) had grown up here, gone to school here, worked here, I'm sure initially things would have been easier," he said. "But she has done a good job adapting to the state."

Broad said the large number of out-of-state system officials has required extra effort to help newcomers adapt, but added it has been beneficial to the system to have outside opinions. "I think there are pluses and minuses, but the benefits to North Carolina are enormous."

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