The University system prepared to protect the academic core of its schools by eliminating and consolidating unnecessary programs, raising tuition to offset cuts, and discussing lobbying efforts to maintain federal funds for financial aid.
The system’s Board of Governors met Thursday to prepare for the expected cuts in state funding of up to $405 million. Although Gov. Bev Perdue announced Wednesday that the state might be expecting a $2.7 billion budget shortfall, $1 billion less than what state officials originally predicted, board members are continuing to prepare for the worst.
“It’s clear that the economy is moving in the right direction,” said UNC-system President Thomas Ross. “It sounds great, but 2.7’s still big.”
UNC system to cut 60 programs
The board will vote today on the fate of the 60 programs systemwide that administrators believe schools can do without.
Eliminating those programs is the system’s first major stab at the academic budget. In the last three years, most of the cuts have come from the administrative side.
At UNC-CH the Slavic languages department could see changes, possibly merging with the German department.
Alan Mabe, senior vice president for academic affairs for the UNC system, said cuts are being made based on a list of priority programs that campuses submitted.
Tuition hikes to be approved
The board is expected to approve systemwide tuition hikes today averaging $208 for undergraduate residents and $650 for non-residents.
All system schools submitted tuition increase proposals to the board and all will likely be approved with the exception of UNC School of the Arts.
UNCSA submitted a tuition increase proposal of 11. 6 percent, much higher than the recommended 6.5 percent cap. Ross recommended the increase be lowered to a 9.5 percent increase.
About 42 professional programs across the UNC system are also asking for separate school-based tuition increases this year.
One of the programs that requested a supplementary tuition increase was the UNC-CH School of Law, which proposed an additional increase of $1, 500 for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 years.
Funding for Pell grants and research
The Republican-led U.S. Congress is looking to ease budget strains by cutting federal funds for research and Pell grants.
In response, system administrators are proposing meetings with legislators to present their top priorities.
Kimrey Rhinehardt, vice president for federal relations and military affairs for the UNC system, asked campuses to prioritize funding for their top programs.
“If there was ever a day when we had to fight for something — I mean really fight for something — it’s coming,” Rhinehardt said.
Leaders debate licensing non-public schools
The board also discussed the potential licensing of three new non-public institutions, including Kaplan College, a for-profit institution with a history of questionable practices.
The UNC system was charged by the N.C. General Assembly with licensing non-public institutions of higher education in the state.
James Anderson, chancellor for Fayetteville State University, said these new institutions could attract students away from the UNC-system schools because of their funding advantages.
“I’m being hindered in terms of my online enrollment growth and then I’ll be penalized for that because we won’t grow,” he said.
Board member James Deal said the system has to evaluate these programs fairly.
“We can’t not license programs because they compete with us, we just need to understand that,” he said.
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