Education

Budget cuts could cost 1,000 jobs across UNC system

Posted April 9, 2010 12:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2010 6:34 p.m. EDT

— The University of North Carolina system might have to eliminate hundreds of faculty positions across its 17 campuses if its budget is cut by 5 percent, President Erskine Bowles said Friday.

The university system already was preparing for a 2 percent budget cut to compensate for lower state funding, but Bowles told the UNC Board of Governors that any further cuts would significantly impact the academic core of its campuses for years to come.

A 5 percent budget cut would mean the loss of 1,000 jobs system-wide, with more than half of them being faculty members, he said.

"I think that there is a lot for us to be concerned about," he said. "(Such cuts) will mean a much, much lower quality of education we will offer our students."

A breakdown provided to the Board of Governors shows UNC-Chapel Hill would lose 231 jobs, including 70 faculty, under the projected cuts. North Carolina State University would have to eliminate 234 jobs, including 138 faculty. The N.C. State projections include agricultural extension positions.

It wasn't immediately clear how many of those projected cuts would be new jobs that were created to handle enrollment growth and new programs at various campuses.

The university system employs about 47,400 people, including about 15,400 faculty.

Last year, UNC eliminated 866 administrative jobs and about 40 faculty positions because of $294 million in state budget cuts.

In that wave of cutbacks, at least 270 people were laid off. Other cuts were achieved by eliminating the administrative positions that were filled by scores of faculty members. Some of their duties were picked up by other administrators.

The university system was able to protect academics in the 2009 cuts by focusing reductions on middle management, Bowles said. But it can't continue to cut administrators, he said, noting UNC General Administration has 30 percent fewer employees than when he became president four years ago and every campus also has trimmed their administrative ranks.

Academic cuts would mean campuses will have to reduce course offerings, increase class sizes, cut lab and library hours and offer fewer academic advisers and counselors.

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the Board of Governors, said UNC officials need to lobby lawmakers to protect the universities from cuts.

"We have to at least make sure everyone understands that, at this point, you cross this line, and it will be hard for us to recover," Gage said. "In no time flat, (university quality) can be undone with a year or two of huge cuts, and we can look all across the country right now and look at what's going on in other states, California in particular."

Christian Modevelu, a sophomore at North Carolina Central University, said he chose the Durham campus, in part, because it offers smaller classes. He said he worries about budget cuts that could lead to larger class sizes.

"There's more people that benefit more from smaller classes," Modevelu said. "Here, if you cut people, everybody will actually notice because it's more impactful."

Bowles said the struggling economy also has led to an increased need for financial aid. About 71 percent of students across the UNC system are applying for help for the coming year, he said.