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Erskine Bowles Excited About Challenges Of UNC Presidency

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It's a new day in the UNC system. On Thursday, the Board of Governors kicked off its 2006 calendar with a new president.

Erskine Bowles, the Charlotte investment banker and former White House chief of staff, hit the ground running with a contagious brand of enthusiasm, as well as some big issues to face. Dressed down and excited, Bowles had a busy first day of committee meetings.

"You can feel his energy in the air, and he's meeting with all the committees today, asking lots of questions, dispensing good advice to us," said board chairman Brad Wilson.    The source of that advice is Bowles' extensive career in business and politics.

"We get over $2 billion a year from the Legislature," said Bowles. "I've got to make sure that I can look them in the eye and prove to them that we're using the money efficiently and effectively. I think that'll take all my business experience and all my financial acumen to make sure we do that.  But also I've got to go over there and convince them that it's important to them to invest in higher education, that it's critical to the well-being of the economy of North Carolina.  I'm confident I can do that.  But to do that you have to have some experience dealing in the political arena."

Bowles' arrival coincides with lofty praise from a national magazine that voted UNC-Chapel Hill the best education value in the country. The irony is, one of the biggest issues facing the new president is tuition increases at the 16 campuses. 

"I think anybody will be misleading you to say that the cost of education is not going to go up," he said. "What I can tell you is we're going to try to make sure every dollar we take in, we use as effectively and efficiently as we possibly can, to hold that tuition cost down as low as possible."

"It's no sense trying to educate folks if you don't give them a quality education," he continued.  "So, I want to make sure we have the resources to provide a quality education."

At its February meeting, the Finance and Budget Committee will make a recommendation to the full board on a tuition increase.


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