UNC system preps for more budget cuts

Posted September 10, 2010 4:39 p.m. EDT
Updated September 11, 2010 6:42 p.m. EDT

— The University of North Carolina system is bracing for another year of deep cuts, and officials said Friday that they fear the latest round will severely impact classroom instruction on their campuses.

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the UNC Board of Governors, said Friday that Gov. Beverly Perdue has instructed university officials to prepare for budget cuts of 5 to 10 percent as the state copes with another deficit.

Fiscal analysts have projected a $3 billion deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year that starts next July. A temporary sales tax increase expires next summer, and federal economic stimulus money will no longer be available to plug holes in the budget, they have said.

The UNC system, which accounts for 13 percent of the state budget, had to trim $70 million in spending this year. In the past three years, the system's budget has been cut by about $600 million, forcing campuses to lay off more than 900 people, UNC President Erskine Bowles said.

"A 10 percent cut – that'll be around $300 million for us – will be very hard to absorb," Bowles said. "It'll be increased class size. It'll be fewer instructors, larger classes for our students (and) longer times till graduation."

UNC-Wilmington Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo said budget cutting has become the new normal status on campus.

"It's not just for this year. It's year after year after year, and it's wearing on people," DePaolo said. "We're trying to protect the academic core. There's almost nothing left for us to cut."

All 16 of UNC's university campuses recently raised tuition to help offset the loss of state funding, but Bowles said another increase next year would be a last resort.

"Access is something this university really believes in," he said.