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UNC-system searches for places to cut funds

Aims to follow UNC Tomorrow

UNC-system president Thomas Ross announced Friday a plan for long-term savings that would help the system cope with losing millions more in state funding.

Ross said at the UNC-system Board of Governors meeting that Jim Woodward, former chancellor of UNC-Charlotte, would be conducting a review of the system’s academic programs in search of “unnecessary duplication.”

As the University system faces potential reductions of up to 15 percent, or $405 million, whole departments and programs could be eliminated.

“It will be difficult to preserve academic excellence and profitability,” Ross said.

Woodward would examine academic programs on all college campuses to see which ones the system could do without while maintaining its mission of offering higher education opportunities to all North Carolinians.

“With 17 campuses, we don’t really know where the duplication is,” Ross said. “It’s premature to speculate.”

He said the economic crisis has forced the system to restructure and reorganize its resources.

Woodward was chosen to lead the review based on his prior accomplishments, among other factors.

“Woodward is someone who has a great deal of experience and respect with the general public,” Ross said. “He is a really thoughtful person.”

Woodward spent 16 years as UNC-C chancellor and also served as interim chancellor for N.C. State University in 2009.

Under Woodward’s leadership, UNC-C developed its first doctoral programs, advanced its fundraising programs and multiplied its research volume five-fold.

After Woodward finishes his review, some programs would be entirely eliminated and others would be offered online, said UNC Board of Governors Chairwoman Hannah Gage.

It would also allow universities to develop more specific mission statements that fall in line with the overall goals of UNC Tomorrow, Gage said.

UNC Tomorrow was an initiative established by former UNC-system president Erskine Bowles that aims at leveraging the resources of the UNC system to address the needs of the state.

Both Ross and Gage said a timeline for the review is yet to be determined.

And although they are unsure of its results, the looming budget cuts make it necessary.

“There are no immediate savings but it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Right now, UNC is facing the elimination of 2,000 positions in the case of a 10 percent cut.

The University has yet to make predictions for a 15 percent cut.

Chancellors and provosts systemwide have said that cuts of that magnitude would require drastic cuts to the academic core of their universities.

“We are all coming to grips with the fact that the world is changing,” Ross said.

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“But failure is not an option, in my view, there is no institution more important for the future of North Carolina.”

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