A Facebook message regarding the possible elimination of a high school summer program spurred strong reactions from many UNC students who describe it as a life-changing experience.
N.C. Governor’s School, a six-week summer residential program for high school students that provides academic and fine arts classes at Salem College in Winston-Salem and Meredith College in Raleigh, might be axed by the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly after almost 50 years.
The program, which was founded in North Carolina, was funded entirely by the state legislature until 2009. But a $475,000 cut to the program’s budget that year forced officials to start charging students $500 in tuition.
A state budget shortfall of about $2.4 billion this year has made the program vulnerable once again. And this time, legislators are considering eliminating the program entirely even though Gov. Bev Perdue proposed maintaining funding.
“That’s been the information coming from different places,” said Joe Milner, president of the N.C. Governor’s School Foundation.
“It’s been very hard to get details because Governor’s School is such a small part of the budget. We don’t know for sure what’s happening.”
A legislative proposal, which lists education budget reductions, calls for ending state support of the program by cutting its entire funding of $849,588.
“Hopefully, they won’t go after that small amount of money,” said Michael McElreath, site director for Governor’s School East.
Jim Hart, president of the Governor’s School Alumni Association, who first informed alumni about the program’s possible elimination via Facebook, said the state would benefit more from investing in the program.
“The students who go to Governor’s School have a lot of potential, but in many ways that potential hasn’t been energized. Governor’s School can really wake them up and make them strong students who can give back to the community and state,” he said.
If the state does eliminate all funding, the program would be forced to charge $1,500 to $2,000 in tuition to continue, Hart said.
The mission of the program has been to serve academically advanced students who have limited resources, so charging high tuition would not make sense, he said.
Despite the budget cuts, Milner said they are moving forward and preparing for this year’s session.
“It absolutely changes lives,” he said. It would be a tragic loss if it weren’t funded.”
Virginia Thomas, a UNC junior and alumna of Governor’s School East, wrote a letter to a senator in 2009 when the program starting charging tuition. She is disappointed that legislators are now considering eliminating the program.
“It’s an environment designed to make young people grow and prepare them for the future,” Thomas said. “It creates a groundwork for the people who will really be giving back to the economy of North Carolina.”
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