Members of the UNC-system Board of Governors discussed their budget request for enrollment growth and financial aid on Thursday.
The board is expected to vote Friday on a budget request of approximately $222 million to send to the N.C. General Assembly for those purposes.
“We’ve got to keep our eye on the future of North Carolina. We’ve got to keep our attention to the fact that the state is growing,” UNC-system President Thomas Ross said to the board.
The request is lower than last year’s request of $262 million, but many board members expressed concerns that the amount is unrealistic.
“I just have a fundamental discomfort going here. It’s a little bit like we’re not listening. We’re facing a $3.7 to $3.8 billion deficit,” said Paul Fulton, a member of the board.
As the UNC system faces inevitable budget cuts, many board members said it was important to protect universities’ growth.
The Budget and Finance Committee recommended $45 million be requested from the state legislature to help fund enrollment growth programs.
The board received $59 million of the $262 million they requested from the state legislature for enrollment growth.
“At some point we have to give a lot of thought to our growth philosophy,” said Chairwoman Hannah Gage. “Because everything we do is going to cause a downward spiral.”
While the legislature might not be able to fully support the programs this year, members said it’s still important to request the funds.
“We ought to say to our friends in the legislature, ‘We understand that you’re up to your neck in alligators. Your job’s still to drain the swamp and to not ignore the alligators that are there,’” said James Holshouser, a board member.
“We may find that the legislature will say to us that if enrollment growth is really important we’ll give you flexibility to find a way to do that but we’re still cutting your budget,” he said.
The state’s escheats fund — composed of revenue from unclaimed property — funds about 83 percent of the state grants for need-based aid given out by the UNC system.
But this fund is expected to be depleted in two years and many are worried that students will lose the money they depend on to get an education.
The legislature will be figuring out how to handle decreasing financial aid over the summer, but most students will have already applied for financial aid by then.
“The sad reality is we just don’t have enough money to meet the needs of all of our students,” said Julie Mallette, financial aid director at N.C. State University.
Staff Writer Elise Young ?contributed reporting.
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