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Proposed budget may decrease Governor’s School funding

Some high school students might have to change their summer plans if a proposed budget is passed by the N.C. General Assembly.

The proposal of the N.C. House appropriations subcommittee on education — released Tuesday — includes eliminating state funding for the N.C. Governor’s School program and charging tuition to offset the loss in funding.

Governor’s School is 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.

The school was tuition-free, funded entirely by the state legislature, until 2009. But a $475,000 budget cut to the school that year forced officials to start charging students $500 for attending.

And now students might have to pay up to $1,700.

N.C. Governor’s School Foundation President Joe Milner said he is not surprised the funding was taken out of the budget given the state budget deficit.

“But it’s a really short-sighted move,” Milner said.

To charge thousands of dollars for tuition might diminish opportunity for blacks and other minorities, Milner said.

Governor’s School is meant to provide opportunities for the students who otherwise might not have had them, he said.

Tom Winton, who works for the exceptional children’s division for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said the school already runs efficiently and if it attempts to cut costs to decrease tuition for students, it might mean a shorter program or accommodating fewer participants.

“It’s supposed to be a program for all that qualify and are selected,” said Winton, who also served as the coordinator of the N.C. Governor’s School until fall 2010.

“I don’t think you could reduce it while keeping the integrity of the program,” he said.

And students won’t be the only ones to suffer.

“It’s going to kind of ruin the statewide impact of it,” said Jim Hart, president of the N.C. Governor’s School Alumni Association.

“A lot of students who are qualified won’t be able to go,” Hart said. “It will likely become students who are more affluent in the first place.”

He said that he is unsure whether the private sector could fill in the funding gap since corporate sponsorship often comes with responsibility to the corporation, which might be counterproductive for the school’s goals.

“I don’t think this is the appropriate thing to cut, because people who go to Governor’s School go on to do things that are economically beneficial to the state,” Hart said. “They’re doctors, they’re researchers, they’re computer programmers.”

“It’s going to have a negative economic impact on the state and make industry want to locate to other places,” he said. “It’s going to make it more likely that some of our best students will choose to go to college outside of the state.”

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