Perdue: Don't merge community colleges

Posted July 18, 2011 12:30 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue on Monday called on lawmakers to reject a proposal to merge several of North Carolina's 58 community colleges to save money.

A recent legislative study found that the community college system is inefficient because each of the campuses is locally autonomous. They lack uniform policies and procedures, and administrative costs per student are about 50 percent higher at smaller colleges, according to the study.

Merging colleges with fewer than 3,000 students into larger campuses nearby could save the state more than $5 million a year by 2018 by combining back-office functions like payroll and information technology and eliminating some administrative positions, according to the study.

Halifax Community College in Weldon, Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, Sampson Community College in Clinton and Wilson Community College in Wilson are among the campuses that could be closed under the proposal.

Lawmakers haven't yet addressed the study, but Perdue said the plan amounts to an attack on rural North Carolina and would harm both the state's education system and its economic development efforts.

"North Carolina’s community college system is absolutely crucial to our economic development engine. I cannot say this loudly enough,” she said in a statement. “I have talked to hundreds of companies that specifically choose North Carolina because they know the local community colleges will train the workers they need.

"Take away the community colleges, and where will those businesses turn for workers? What other state – or country – will get our jobs instead?”

Although the study cited local control as a measure of inefficiency, Perdue said such autonomy meets local needs.