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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Schools Gain Courses, Attention

The most recent examples are UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Charlotte gaining approval earlier this month to offer new doctorate programs.

System officials and state legislators applaud the growth of the universities, but the increase in offerings raises concerns of funding and program duplication.

"We don't want to reinvent the wheel or recreate things," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland. "As it goes on, schools will develop different strengths."

John Sanders, a former UNC-system Board of Governors member, said the system structure was not created to have equal programs at all system schools.

He said that not only is there no need for total equality but that it also is not affordable for the state. As the state budget crisis continues to limit the options available to universities, universities will continue to increase specialization, Sanders predicted.

But as system enrollment continues to increase, universities are pressed to expand offerings to accommodate the needs of the new students.

East Carolina University's enrollment alone is slated to increase from 20,500 to 27,500 by the end of the decade.

ECU Chancellor William Muse said whether the university continues to grow largely is dependent on the actions of the N.C. General Assembly. The tight budget situation forces schools to be more competitive in lobbying for funds.

Sanders said that when requesting and allocating funds, BOG members must do what is best for the system as a whole and not show favoritism to a region of the state or to a specific university. "The university has a lot of friends, and sometimes they have narrow points of view."

Sanders pointed to the BOG's recent rejection of Elizabeth City State University's request to create a pharmacy school as an example of the board exercising necessary restraint. "A pharmacy school in your part of the state may not be necessary."

UNC-CH Provost Robert Shelton also said that in hard financial times it is particularly important to assess need and to control duplication, which leads to concentrated resources and fully developed programs. "If you ask the taxpayer, 'Would you rather have one world-class program or three mediocre programs?' I think I know their answer to that," Shelton said.

Shelton added that he relies on the system to allocate funds appropriately. "I think the challenge of the (UNC-system) Office of the President is how to fund each campus according to its needs," he said. "You don't want to rob one to pay the other."

But the competition for resources creates the opportunity for tension between institutions. "Anytime you have a family of 16 institutions ... there's going to be a certain amount of friction," Sanders said.

Shelton, however, said he has never experienced friction. He said improvements at other universities won't change the quality of UNC-CH's education.

"I don't in any way feel threatened by the success of other universities," he said. "I think as the system gets stronger, that's good for Chapel Hill, as long as money due to the University does not go elsewhere."

In addition to the UNC system, regions of the state surrounding each campus benefit from the growth of universities and their increase in national recognition.

Dennis Marstall, assistant to Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, said UNC-C plays a key role in the city's development by attracting new businesses to the area and boosting industry.

"We're excited that they are an active player in the city," he said. "We are attracting more people from out of state and across the nation."

Marstall said local officials are encouraged by the continued growth of UNC-C and would like to see it gain classification as a research institution, like UNC-CH and N.C. State. "I think there is a strong desire by the elected officials and even more so by the business officials for a different designation."

Sen. Ed Warren, D-Pitt, attributes much of the growth in Pitt County to ECU and to the quality health care and cultural events the university brings.

Muse said graduates are more likely to remain in the area and to fulfill regional needs. The university is planning a doctorate program in medical family therapy and another in technical and professional writing.

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Muse said ECU also is investigating a nursing doctorate because of the lack of nursing instructors in the area. He added that any time ECU examines the need for a new program, it considers both system and regional demand. "As the medical school has demonstrated, there is a definite need in the eastern part of the state for physicians," he said.

The medical school at ECU has become nationally regarded, but Muse said the school maintains its local emphasis. "You never desert your roots; you serve the region you're located more than other areas," he said.

But despite the school's regional focus, Muse said, ECU administrators hope it will continue to increase in statewide and national recognition.

"Every school wants to be more widely known and more highly regarded."

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