System waiting on state budget

The next round of state budget talks is still months away, but university officials are already downplaying expectations for increased funding. With the national economy in the midst of a deepening slowdown, state fiscal analysts have provided cautious estimates for revenue growth. That, in turn, is driving concerns among state agencies about potential budget problems. "We certainly realize there are dark clouds on the economic horizon," said Rob Nelson, UNC-system vice president for finance. "We're going to have to work with the General Assembly. We always do that."

UNC-C football to test fee rules

If UNC-Charlotte moves forward with its plan to field a football team, it could provide the first serious test of the UNC system's strict limit on student fees. Because athletic programs cannot receive tuition money or state funding, every penny of football startup costs would have to come from student fees and private donations. UNC-C Chancellor Philip Dubois has already acknowledged that the program would require a fee hike in excess of the system's 6.5 percent annual limit.

Bowles' role unique in search

Erskine Bowles is not a member of UNC's chancellor search committee. But long-standing ties to UNC-Chapel Hill could give the UNC-system president key influence in selecting the University's next chancellor. The chairman of UNC's search committee, University trustee Nelson Schwab, is a longtime friend of Bowles.

Senate seeking tuition answers

With UNC officials still savoring the success of a $2.38 billion fundraising campaign, federal lawmakers are taking a critical look at some of the country's largest university endowments. A total of 136 campuses nationwide have endowments valued at a half-billion dollars or more, and the Senate Finance Committee has requested detailed information about the way each school uses those funds. Specifically, senators want to know why tuition has continued to rise even as the nation's top universities have grown steadily wealthier.

Defense lab stirs heated debate

The UNC system is readying for a public relations tug-of-war over a proposed biodefense lab in Granville County. The University system has been a key player in lobbying to bring the federal research facility, which will focus on combating agricultural diseases, to North Carolina. UNC has worked alongside a consortium of local officials and private companies to convince the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to select the Granville County site from among four other national finalists, touting the research opportunities and economic benefits of the high-security lab.

N.C. educational model may shift

WINSTON-SALEM - The UNC Tomorrow Commission delivered its much-awaited final report to the system's Board of Governors Thursday, laying out 28 pages of broad recommendations for the future of North Carolina's public campuses. The commission's charge was, in essence, to travel around the state and ask North Carolinians what they want from their public universities. It turns out they want quite a lot. "The response across the state was overwhelming," said Norma Houston, executive director of UNC Tomorrow. Now the board must decide if those demands can be met.

System gains oversight of ASG purse

University officials have quietly intensified their scrutiny of spending by the UNC-system Association of Student Governments, part of a broader effort to impose tighter oversight of the group.

Tuition hikes likely to pass BOG

The UNC system will not make a final decision about tuition increases until February, but approval for UNC-Chapel Hill's proposed hikes is all but assured. Student Body President Eve Carson said she is not planning any protest or appeal to the system's Board of Governors, which has the final say on tuition rates at the state's 16 universities. Board members already have suggested they will look favorably on the University's request. "We would like for them to be lower," Carson said, referring to the proposed hikes for graduate students and nonresident undergraduates.