By Trevor Metcalfe – Editor-in-Chief – [email protected]
The new state budget proposal threatens to cut funding from the UNC system by more than 5 percent, and could discourage out-of-state students from attending UNC colleges, according to UNC Asheville faculty and students.
“I think that the McCrory plan could certainly discourage out-of-state students from attending, since out-of-state tuition is nearly four times that of in-state,” said John Spurlock, an UNCA music technology student from Lancaster, Pa.
The budget proposal, released by Gov. Pat McCrory on March 20, gives $2.52 billion to the UNC system, slashing $138 million from the 2011-12 budget. The UNC system faced cuts of $414 million in 2011, prompting widespread program and job cuts across the state.
In addition to the cuts, McCrory’s budget recommends $65 million go toward the new five year strategic plan for the university system. The plan recommends improving the structure of the system to meet the needs of a rapidly changing student body, by improving transfer processes and catering to older, non-traditional students. The McCrory budget would provide $19.6 million to the project in the next fiscal year, with another $43.6 million in 2014-15.
Lothar Dohse, a UNCA math professor and representative for the UNC faculty assembly, said communicating the needs of a school to the legislature represents a major hurdle in the planning process.
“They want to change everything, and this is very alarming to us,” Dohse said.
Dohse said recent statements made by McCrory criticizing liberal arts curricula were particularly worrying.
“That kind of language is a big concern, for many reasons that have nothing to do with party or political persuasion,” Dohse said. “Our big concern is that the leadership is being siphoned off into another group that doesn’t know what they’re doing.”
Budget progresses slowly
Greg Carter, assistant vice chancellor for external affairs, said the budget process progresses slowly, and involved months of planning and research by the governor and Art Pope, the state budget director.
“They are meeting with everyone during this process,” Carter said.
The budget planners meet with the general administration of UNC, and conduct physical research for the budget proposal, Carter said. After the planning stage, McCrory releases his budget, and it heads to the state Senate for review.
“The Senate works on it, and they may keep some of it, and they might throw some of it out,” Carter said.
After passing through both legislative houses, members of both bodies meet to draft a final budget before approval by McCrory. Carter said the process should be finished by the end of June, but the legislature will wait for tax revenue numbers to post before finalizing the budget. Analysts expect the revenues to increase this fiscal year.
“This could be a result of people dumping stock at the end of the year because of tax laws that are changing,” Carter said.
UNCA is already beginning to plan for the potential cuts proposed by McCrory, according to John Pierce, vice chancellor for finance and operations.
“What we have to do is start our planning toward how we would react to that type of situation, if it was that bad,” Pierce said. “And we don’t know if it will be that bad or not.”
Pierce said as the budget progresses, members of administration, senior faculty and the university planning committee would all meet to discuss strategies and priorities. The new strategic plan would add a prescriptive guide to the budget process this year, according to Pierce.
“There is all kinds of efforts toward saving money and being more efficient, and we will continue to do that,” Pierce said.
Plan recommends tuition hike
The current budget plan calls for tuition raises for out-of-state students of 12 percent for big schools like UNC Chapel Hill, and 6 percent for others, including UNCA. Spurlock, who said he chose UNCA partly because of its relatively low student fees, said the rise could discourage out-of-state students.
“It should also be noted that such a plan exacerbates an annually increasing tuition,” Spurlock said.
Pierce said the increase in revenue from the plan could even be offset by a decrease in enrollment.
“When you go up that much, and don’t make an adjustment for enrollment volume, that’s an issue,” Pierce said.
Campus must work together
Pierce said working with the state budget remains a team effort for the university.
“What I’ve found is that you have to multiply your thinking,” Pierce said. “There’s no way that one person can have the ideas, but if you put the general issue out there to a broad group of people and then work through the process, people figure it out.”
The plan of action for UNCA depends on the decisions made in the coming months in Raleigh, Carter said.
“It’s a waiting game,” Carter said.