|Could UNC system be pared?|
|Lawmaker offers consolidation as possibility|
|Published Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:44 pm|
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $135 million cut to the University of North Carolina system has lawmakers thinking about closing one or more campuses.
State Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Winston-Salem Republican and co-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the chamber is casting a keen eye about how money is spent by the publically financed colleges than the size of the budget.
“I think our members definitely envision that there could be some consolidation between campuses,” he told WRAL-TV last week, “and we might need to go from 16 down to 15, 14, something like that.”
Five of the 16 UNC campuses are historically black: Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, N.C. A&T State, N.C. Central and Winston-Salem State universities. UNC-Pembroke, which was founded as a campus for Native Americans, is also part of the UNC system.
UNC leaders immediately voiced concerns over the proposed cuts, which come on the heels of $400 million in budget reductions in recent years. Brunstetter’s consolidation idea was a surprise, and UNC President Tom Ross issued a statement that skirted the issue.
“The university system remains committed to operating more efficiently and to doing its part to ensure North Carolina’s economic competitiveness and high quality of life,” he said. “We recognize that we must do more with less and remain accountable to state taxpayers and policymakers. As outlined in our new strategic plan, we are taking steps to further streamline operations, improve instructional productivity and quality and refine and focus academic missions to meet current and future state needs.”
“Senator Brunstetter’s proposal is deeply troubling,” N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Vollmer said in a statement. “At a time like this, when our economy is on the rebound, the last thing that we should think about doing is limiting our students’ educational opportunities. The UNC System, thanks to the work of Democratic governors like O. Max Gardner, Bob Scott and Jim Hunt, has become a model for the country, with 16 universities across the state that are diverse, creative, and innovative.
“From the medical students of Chapel Hill, to the engineers in Raleigh, to the artists in Winston-Salem, each school provides a unique opportunity for North Carolina students, and a unique service to this state."
Brunstetter and his fellow Republicans maintain that overlapping programs should be eliminated, which would potentially pit campuses and regions against each other.
For example, N.C. A&T – long a rumored target for consolidation with neighboring UNC Greensboro – offers a degree in engineering, as does UNC Charlotte and N.C. State University. N.C. Central and UNC-Chapel Hill each have a law school and Elizabeth City State, Chapel Hill and East Carolina University have pharmacy schools.
“I do think you’re going to see a good, hard, honest look at the way the university conducts its business, the way resources are allocated and the way money is spent,” Brunstetter told WRAL.
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