Board members focused on budget proposals for the 2016-17 fiscal year and graduation rates at the system’s 17 campuses. Charlie Perusse, the system’s chief operating officer, recommended a 2.5 percent increase in the budget from the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Perusse’s proposed budget would be $6.7 million more than this fiscal year’s, but $34.5 million less than originally requested.
Still, board members showed greater concern during discussions on the N.C. Guaranteed Admission Program in a special session.
Legislators in the N.C. General Assembly passed the program in the fall with plans to implement it during the 2016-17 fiscal year and apply it to admissions policies during the 2017-18 year.
The goal of the guaranteed admission program is to increase the six-year graduation rate across the UNC system by deferring the least competitive students admitted to community colleges first. These students would be required to earn an associate’s degree before enrolling as a student at the constituent institution.
A presentation by Kate Henz, associate vice president for academic policy, planning and analysis in the UNC system, said though the program has its benefits, research suggests it will not help students get their degrees earlier — but instead could produce the opposite result.
It would likely lower the cost of college education for both the student and the state — North Carolina would potentially save $8,000 per student — but the state’s economy could lose an estimated $4.3 to $5.1 million in wages each year from students who do not earn degrees, according to the report.
“There is an ethical and moral aspect to this,” said James Anderson, chancellor of Fayetteville State University. “Basically, this data says that if we go with this, in essence, we’re going to eradicate diversity as we now know it.”
The report also suggests its implementation could disproportionately affect rural, low-income and minority students in the state by potentially changing the system-wide GPA admissions requirement from 2.5 to 2.7.
Students in this GPA range primarily attend HBCUs, where first-year enrollment numbers could significantly drop as a direct result.
A second implementation option would defer the lowest performing 2.5 percent of admitted applicants at every institution — prompting concerns students might choose another university instead of accepting deferred enrollment.
Henz suggested a possible solution for the board is to wait until at least 2018 to implement the program.
Board member Champ Mitchell said the lack of communication between the board and state legislators is the primary reason the program is not likely to succeed. He said they are relying on Spellings to bridge the gap between the two entities.
“This method of going about it is not going to work, and it’s going to be destructive to large parts of the University ...” Mitchell said. “Margaret, go to Raleigh and fix this.”