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College Funding Could Be On The State's Budget-Chopping Block

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The education community is reeling from the state's recommendations to cut budgets from kindergarten through college. While Gov. Mike Easley vows to protect the classroom, school leaders said there is no way to avoid it.

As graduations across the UNC-system begin this weekend, students look forward to their bright futures. However, the system's future is less certain.

With only two months left in the fiscal year, Gov. Mike Easley has already frozen state budgets. But the news has gotten worse for some: UNC-system President Molly Broad told the board of governors Friday that state lawmakers identified $234 million in possible cuts in university funding. That number is double the original estimate in March.

"Maintaining the current level of operations or service is just not possible for this university in these circumstances," Broad said.

Among possible options, the state may:

  • Cut all vacant positions
  • Reduce non-personnel budgets across the board
  • Reduce or eliminate some programs and reduce UNC-TV's budget
  • Broad said the effect would be increased faculty workload and larger class sizes. Chancellors were counting on money from vacant positions to hire new faculty, but that money is gone.

    "All of that flexibility is lost, when you need to be adding faculty to accommodate growth," said UNC-Central chancellor Dr. James Ammons.

    Most campuses are adding students this fall and must provide education with less money. Some students said they are worried about a cut in quality on top of January's tuition increase.

    "Why are you asking us to pay a considerable amount and yet giving us less?" student Andrew Payne said.

    There is encouraging news from the university's bond program. Projects currently under way are under budget. Plus, the interest rates on the bond debt is the lowest in 40 years, so the new buildings will cost less than expected.