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Board of Governors considers system consolidation

An idea being considered by state legislators to consolidate the UNC system’s campuses might not receive the backing of the system’s Board of Governors.

After Gov. Pat McCrory released his budget proposal last week, state legislators began discussing ways that the system could operate more efficiently — including merging or closing some of the system’s campuses.

Board members agreed that the structure of the UNC system needs continuous review, but emphasized that a cautious approach should be taken to campus closures.

Member Hari Nath said the historical growth of the UNC system from three to 17 campuses means consolidation could be discussed.

“The (N.C.) legislature has an obligation to look at the whole UNC system to see where there are possibilities for efficiencies to be met,” he said.

A decision to alter the campuses would need approval from the board.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Halifax, said she opposes closing UNC-system campuses.

“It will hurt the future of the state to not provide as many contributing citizens as possible and financially secure families over the next generation,” she said. “There is no help for the state in these proposals.”

Other state university systems have reduced campuses to alleviate budget woes.

The University System of Georgia consolidated eight of its campuses into four in January.

John Millsaps, spokesman for the Georgia system, said merging campuses was part of an effort to deliver high quality education in the face of cutbacks.

“Ultimately, the goal was to make each institution offer more,” he said.

But board member David Powers said the UNC system can preserve its prestige without consolidating campuses.

The system is currently one of the two or three best public education systems in the country, he said.

“I take very seriously my and my board colleagues’ responsibility to safeguard the quality of the university,” Powers said.

And board member Richard Taylor said the system works as is.

“I don’t feel that, economically or mentally, they can do away with any of our schools,” he said. “It is too great of a system.”

Millsaps said the Georgia system’s campus mergers covered a wide range of operations, including faculty changes, athletic programs and school colors.

“We resolved some key questions about organization,” he said.

But Taylor said merging campuses in North Carolina would be controversial.

“I hope it would not happen because it would be catastrophic for the system,” he said.

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