State News

UNC system cuts likely mean layoffs, course reductions

Posted April 7, 2011 5:15 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2011 7:34 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's public university system says state budget cuts could mean thousands of fewer classes across the 16 campuses and job losses for more than 1,000 faculty members.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors heard a presentation Thursday that describes what a possible 15 percent cut in state funding would mean to the system and to individual schools.

Administrators said about 9,000 classes would be dropped, including more than 1,000 at North Carolina State University alone. About 3,200 jobs, including 1,500 faculty, would be eliminated across the system.

"The ramifications are so large, it's really almost too hard to get our arms around them yet," UNC President Tom Ross said.

Ross said UNC officials had been told to prepare for cuts of 5 to 10 percent, but now projections are for cuts of 15 to 20 percent, which he calls "gigantic for us."

"If we see cuts in that neighborhood, I think it really is going to be permanently damaging to the university."

UNC-Charlotte officials projected that students would have to spend an extra semester at college to meet all of their graduation requirements because of the course cutbacks.

That prospect alarmed some UNC students.

"I already have enough trouble getting into my classes. There aren't enough teachers in the journalism school," said Ajsela Pestalic, a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"One of my friends last year, she's a math major. She spent a whole semester taking random electives because she can't get into any of the math classes," said Meagan Metkowski, a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The UNC system accounts for 14 percent of the overall state budget. House Republican leaders plan to begin unveiling portions of their budget next week, so the magnitude of the cuts is still unclear.

The state faces a projected $2.4 billion deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which starts in July.

UNC officials said raising tuition drastically isn't the answer to the budget problem. Tuition for in-state undergraduates has gone up by an average of almost 150 percent across the system over the last 10 years, they said.

"The rest of the world points to this system, and we can't let it be dismantled," said John Davis, a Board of Governors member.