North Carolina university system seeks millions for enrollment increases
With the state of North Carolina facing an estimated $1.1 billion budget shortfall, university heads are aggressively lobbying the NC General Assembly for additional money to accommodate continued enrollment growth.
‘“We have more students graduating from high school because the number of students moving through our schools has increased,’” said Joani Worthington, a spokeswoman for the University of North Carolina’s 16-campus system. ‘“That is compounded by the fact that we have more older students who are seeking to attend college because of changes in the economy. The jobs coming to North Carolina require higher levels of education.’”
Sen. AB Swindell (D-Nashville), who co-chairs the Senate Education Committee, said Monday he’s met with most of the chancellors of the 16 campuses in recent weeks, including UNCG Chancellor Patricia Sullivan.
‘“There’s nothing more important than maintaining enrollment in our K-12, community colleges and universities,’” Swindell said.
The numbers laid out by Swindell indicate a tight budget: 35,000 new college students expected in the next fiscal year requiring $228 million just to pay for enrollment increases; $240 million required to meet Medicaid requirements; and $180 million needed for state healthcare entitlements.
Paying for increased enrollment appears to have bipartisan support. Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Denton), a member of the Education Committee, said he would be surprised if funding was not granted when the final budget is approved.
Bingham also said there is strong bipartisan support for increasing funding for community colleges.
‘“Especially relative to nurses because we have such a shortage and such a need,’” he said. ‘“The coursework requires more funding per student, so that is something that’s going to be addressed.’”
The UNC Board of Governor’s budget request seeks $92 million for the 2005-06 fiscal year and $152 million for the 2006-07 fiscal year to accommodate enrollment changes. The Board of Governors is also requesting $100.3 million for fiscal year 2005-06 and $214 million for fiscal year 2006-07 to pay for salary increases. The additional funding would entail 7.5 percent increases each year.
Both Swindell and Bingham acted noncommittal when questioned about whether the legislature will come up with the money for raises.
‘“Anytime we’re going to have increases in salaries ‘— that’s a majority of where our increases come from ‘— that will probably be scrutinized pretty heavily,’” Bingham said.