Thorp wants to protect academics as UNC-Chapel Hill cuts

Posted January 26, 2011
Updated January 27, 2011

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— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is already making budget cuts for the next fiscal year.

Chancellor Holden Thorp said Thursday that the 5 percent cut he has ordered for 2011-12 will cost the university $26 million.

Thorp added that deeper cuts, the 10 and 15 percent options suggested by the governor and legislators attempting to balance the state budget, could "significantly erode" academics.

"I'm very proud of how far we've been able to go and protect the classroom, but it's going to be impossible to keep going without starting to significantly erode our ability to provide high-quality instruction," he said. "Even the 5 percent we are pulling back is going to affect our ability to offer class sections.”

Students said the cutbacks have made it more difficult to get into popular classes.

"There are a lot of sections being canceled," sophomore Chris Ford said.

"Part of a good education is about being able to get into those small classes, being able to get into the classes that you want to take," junior Elise Stephenson said.

Thorp said he knows he's working in a new economic reality and wants to be proactive about making cuts before they are mandated.

"(We want) to show that we know the state is in a difficult situation and that the governor and the General Assembly have difficult choices," he said.

Still, as the belt tightens, Thorp said his top priority is protecting the academic offerings and reputation of UNC.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp Thorp wants to protect academics as UNC-Chapel Hill cuts

The university has absorbed at least $157 million in state cuts, mostly for administration and efficiency measures, since 2008, officials said.

"If we continue to have to make these cuts, then we are going to start compromising the quality of education that our students receive," he said.

He plans to press for any revenue from increases in tuition to remain on campus, rather than being transferred to the state's General Fund. The university has requested a 6.5 percent increase – the maximum allowed under state rules – for the 2011-12 school year.

Ford said he would be willing to pay a little more to help the school's budget situation.

"This is one of the best public educations in the country, and I definitely think increasing tuition a little bit is worth protecting that," he said.

Stephenson said, however, that recent tuition increases have caused two of her friends to transfer.

"It's definitely a tough thing because everyone here is obviously concerned about money," she said.

Thorp said the university must preserve its ability to offer need-based aid to qualified students, noting that 37 percent of the undergraduates require need-based aid.

North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson last week said his university might need to restructure and eliminate degree programs to deal with budget cuts, but Thorp said such moves wouldn't work in Chapel Hill. All 14 UNC-CH schools are needed, he said.

"We don't really see a need to reorganize that," Thorp said. "Those are schools that have been here for, in some cases, 200 years, and that's a structure that has served us well."


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  • BigUNCFan Jan 27, 2011

    Seems also that the university system here has too many campuses and lots of redundancy with some campuses in the same city (UNCG and NC A&T come to mind as both being in Greensboro).

    I am sure there could also be some consolodation between UNC and NCSU. I could envision a bus service between the two where certain classes are offered at one or the other and are credited to both institutions depending on where the student is enrolled. I think an unhealthy sense of rivalry makes this idea a non starter but it is a good one in theory.

  • BigUNCFan Jan 27, 2011

    I think if you cut all of the soft majors no one can get a job with (we all know what they are), then that would save money. Fund the sciences and the hard core subjects like math and computer engineering.

    The days of being hired out of school with a liberal arts degree and hoping someone will train you based on potential are over. You need to go to school to learn a trade. It is just too expensive to go to learn about Russian literature or anthropology. Those are cool things to learn and you can do that on your own. It is called a hobby.

    Only rich people can afford to spend a ton of money on hobbies. Regular hard working folks need to learn a trade or they will be living at home after graduation and their parents will be out 100K. It is weird that people act like they are rich for weddings and college. In other situations, they would not dream of wasting money on such things unless they got a high return for the investment.

  • issymayake Jan 27, 2011

    I don't think the students figure so prominently into it, hokiedokie. I think it's the alums. . and some schools have considerable political influence on the General Assembly.

    And in a unique situation for the HBCUs and also UNC-Pembroke, a lawsuit could emerge from that threat because of the funding inequities that stunted their growth in the 1980s and 1990s. Those inequities have just been corrected in the past decade.

  • RomneyRyan2012 Jan 27, 2011

    Are they afraid to close some of the other campuses because the students wouldn't have grades high enough to attend other schools? Seems if you don't have to support so many small campuses money could be saved and these students could attend other schools within the areas.

  • issymayake Jan 27, 2011

    I read somewhere yesterday that some campuses could be closed. Is that possible? Can they be closed, the properties sold and those students be absorbed into other campuses? - Hokiedokie

    This is the threat every couple of years; budget shortfall or not. It would be political suicide and would be more trouble than it is worth.

  • godnessgracious Jan 27, 2011

    Must be the Dems since that's who is in power and we're still there...

    I'm pretty sure if they didn't feel politically threatened they would have 'cut and run' a long long time ago. The dems are not a panacea to be sure, but until I start to see real concrete evidence to the contrary they will be my lesser of two evils.

  • RomneyRyan2012 Jan 27, 2011

    I read somewhere yesterday that some campuses could be closed. Is that possible? Can they be closed, the properties sold and those students be absorbed into other campuses?

  • Just another bad guy Jan 27, 2011

    every single states budget shortfall totals up to 124 billion. Less than the annual amount spent in afhanistan and iraq. Tell me which party is ruining the country? -godnessgracious

    um, the Whigs? just a guess.

  • Garnerwolf1 Jan 27, 2011

    Must be the Dems since that's who is in power and we're still there...

  • Just another bad guy Jan 27, 2011

    "The $1500 in state grants and aid per year is much less than the $4000+ (estimate) that same college graduate will end up paying in state taxes per year. College graduates essentially pay for themselves." -issymayake. GOOD POINT!

    While I can't verify the numbers, the principle of spending tax money on education to increase the future income of college graduates will pay off many fold over the lifetime of the graduate. Not to mention it allows the people that have a higher salary enjoy the benefits of the extra spending money.

    We ALL have access to public education both k-12 and higher. If you didn't take full advantage of it, don't blame others.