The budget proposal released by Gov. Pat McCrory Wednesday sparked fresh concerns about the amount of state money available for higher education.
McCrory proposed allocating $2.52 billion to the UNC system for 2013-14 — a cut of more than $55 million from the previous year.
The reduction would come after a cut of $414 million in 2011 prompted universities to eliminate 3,000 positions and hundreds of course sections.
UNC-system President Thomas Ross said in a statement that he was concerned about the proposed reductions to the system’s funding.
“I worry about the impact additional reductions will have on our ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities to our residents and to assist in North Carolina’s economic recovery,” Ross said.
McCrory’s budget also proposed a 12.3 percent tuition increase for out-of-state students at six universities, including UNC-CH, and a 6 percent increase for out-of-state students at other universities.
In-state tuition rates would remain the same.
“My focus right now is on North Carolina citizens and North Carolina students that need further education at our universities,” McCrory said in a press conference.
“We do not want to put additional debt on these students,” he added.
Sanyu Gichie, a UNC student and member of the N.C. Student Power Union, said the tuition increases would hurt out-of-state students in the state.
“We do appreciate the (in-state tuition) freeze, but we don’t want out-of-state students and undocumented youth to have to bear the cost,” Gichie said.
“They are also cutting millions of dollars from the UNC school system,” she said.
Duke Cheston, a writer for the Pope Center for Higher Education, said the budget reflects the difficult decisions McCrory had to make.
“I don’t know how much more he could have done,” Cheston said. “This budget reflects tough choices.”
Cheston said McCrory’s budget would implement needed efficiencies.
“This is an opportunity to cut waste and inefficiency,” he said. “I am glad to see they took the opportunity.”
McCrory’s budget also proposes adding $63 million toward investments in the UNC system’s strategic plan for the next two years, which was approved by the Board of Governors in February to boost degree attainment.
The board asked the legislature for $54.7 million in 2013-14 and $107.5 million in 2014-15 in its expansion budget request.
Gichie said she was disappointed McCrory did not propose tax increases to find universities more money.
“What they could have done is put more of the tax burdens on corporations and the wealthiest few,” she said.
Ross said the system will continue working on the budget with state leaders.
“We look forward to the next steps in the budget process and will work in partnership with the legislative leadership to identify targeted investments in the University,” he said.
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