Faculty Positions, Class Sizes, Libraries Vulnerable in Proposed Budget Cuts

Facing the threat of budget cuts for 2005-06 totaling as high as $16.3 million, University officials have compiled a list of programs and positions that might be trimmed or eliminated to accommodate a 4 percent cut being discussed in the N.C. General Assembly.

A 4 percent cut, according to the report, would result in dropping 65 faculty positions, increasing some class sizes, reducing admissions to the nursing program, eliminating 200 class sections, reducing funding for research and scaling back library resources, among other things. The reduction being discussed would be recurring, not just for a single year.

It’s still early to assume the magnitude of the cuts will reach $16.3 million, said Stephen Allred ’74, executive associate provost, but the list reflects preparation for the possibility. Legislators are trying to figure out how to resolve a serious revenue shortfall. The University has dealt with $41 million in recurring cuts and $73 million in nonrecurring cuts since fiscal 2001-02.

One alternative to cutting programs is raising tuition for in-state students. The UNC System Board of Governors recently approved a 2005-06 tuition increase for out-of-state students but did not raise the price for residents. A 1 percent system-wide increase was discussed by legislators, but that would contribute only about $3 million to the state budget, from which legislators are aiming to trim $250 million in education spending. The combined effect of a $16 million budget cut and the cost of funding future enrollment growth would make the University vulnerable to a decline in instructional quality, the report said, threatening once-protected offerings such as library collections.

In the past four years, the University has dealt with more than $100 million in cuts by eliminating faculty and support staff and delaying planned improvements to programs. But after consecutive years of cuts, said Faculty Chair Judith Wegner, the strain of more reductions – with potential impacts to libraries, class sizes and faculty positions – make it clear “it’s pretty imperative we need to get stability in the funding patterns.”

To Wegner, the likelihood of the 4 percent cut is low. Increases in tuition and support from a potential state lottery probably would help UNC dodge the worse-case scenario, she said.

“I was dean of the law school when we had the 1991 time of woe,” said Wegner, “when we had to work our way through some serious budget cuts. And it’s not unlike what we’re dealing with now. It’s not unique.”

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