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Friday December 9th

UNC-system historically black colleges and universities affected by budget cuts

Officials ask for ‘level playing ?eld’

The impact of state budget cuts might resonate to different extents across the UNC system.

The 17.4 percent budget cut for UNC-system schools recently proposed by the N.C. House appropriations subcommittee on education has the potential to disproportionately impact historically black colleges and universities — even if the cuts are equally distributed among each university.

These universities, which are defined as HBCUs with a student body of at least 40 percent black students, are typically smaller and have fewer resources.

It is not fair to cut funding for HBCUs and expect the same outcome as for other universities, said Boyce Williams, senior vice president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

Larger universities with more resources might be better able to absorb cuts than schools with fewer resources, Williams said.

“HBCUs are being asked to do the same programs and curriculum even though they do not have the same amount as a university like UNC-Chapel Hill,” she said.

Any cuts imposed on a university must take into account its individual ability to fulfill its mission, said Greg Doucette, president of the Student Bar Association at the N.C. Central University School of Law, which is an HBCU.

Doucette is also the former president of the UNC Association of Student Governments.

“An HBCU status should be taken into account, but more broadly the needs of each university should also be considered,” Doucette said. “Does fair mean that everyone receives the same percent of cuts, or that all colleges are able to fulfill their mission?”

The HBCUs in the UNC system have already begun preparing for the looming cuts.

“We are going to be impacted in the sense that we are going to reduce our adjunct faculty, reduce the number of class offerings,” said Robert Botley, vice chancellor for business and finance at Fayetteville State University, which is an HBCU. “Students may have to stay longer to fulfill graduation requirements.”

Robert Pompey, vice chancellor for business and finance at N.C. Agricultural & Technological State University, another HBCU, also said the university faces reductions in faculty and administrative positions.

“There are only a finite amount of resources available to us,” Pompey said.

“Any HBCU will say that they have been historically underfunded, and we just have to make the best of the situation.

“The UNC system should have some flexibility in allocating cuts,” he said.

Both Botley and Pompey have expressed confidence that the UNC-system Board of Governors will use proper discretion in allocating the cuts and will keep in mind the greater impact they would have on HBCUs.

Doucette argued the burden of leadership is on the N.C. General Assembly.

“Whether it’s an HBCU or any other university, we’re all going to be challenged,” Botley said.

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