Last month, Gov. Mike Easley's office informed UNC-system officials state revenue was not reaching expected levels due to the economic downturn resulting from the terrorist attacks. Officials asked many state agencies to prepare for funding cuts -- as high as 4 percent for the UNC system.
But system officials and the state budget director recently agreed on a plan with a 2.7 percent decrease in state funding for public higher education programs.
State-supported universities and community colleges were asked to come up with their own plans for decreasing their intake of state funds.
Fred Hartman, Easley's press secretary, said he thinks the plan is a step in the right direction. "Education is a top priority, and we don't want to do anything negative to our universities," he said.
Hartman said the governor ordered budget cuts for many state agencies but did not want to set a target percentage for education. Instead, Easley allowed UNC-system officials to determine a fair cut. "We are trying to be good stewards of the people's money, serving the people as best we can," he said.
Hartman said the state's economic situation appears to be improving, but it is necessary to prepare for the worst.
Jeff Davies, UNC-system vice president for finance, said the percentage is lower because the governor decided to protect education, not because the economic picture had improved substantially.
Davies also insisted the spending decrease will not impair classroom activity at UNC-system universities. "With this 2.7 percent cut and the plans we will be making with the chancellors, we should be able to protect instruction," he said.
In the meantime, Davies said the numbers will continue to be re-examined depending on whether the economy improves.