Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have been so vehemently opposed to raising teacher pay and expanding Medicaid that the state budget has been stuck at an impasse with no resolution in sight. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said it’s likely no new budget will be passed this fiscal year or next. It leaves several UNC-System schools halting much-needed construction and renovations, and us wondering when politics will stop seeping into the University System.
The UNC schools affected by the budget battle are disproportionately rural or have a large minority enrollment. North Carolina A&T, an HBCU, has been forced to halt an $18.5 million renovation to the home of their College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, a building that currently lacks air conditioning and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The budget impasse has also left Western Carolina University without $500,000 to replace a steam power plant that provides heat and hot water for students and faculty on campus. The existing plant is outdated and just one more mechanical failure away from shutting down the entire campus.
In Morganton, a new campus for the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics has been unable to hire staff for incoming students, leading to a February announcement that the school will delay its opening for another year.
While the three schools are the first to be financially impacted by the budget standoff, boards of trustees at all UNC-System universities have been unethically drawn-in to this political fight by the UNC Board of Governors. After the BOG passed a resolution in January supporting Republican legislator’s state budget, they encouraged the boards of trustees at all 16 state universities to do the same.