RALEIGH (Jun. 18, 2015) – The $21.5 billion state budget approved this week by the NC Senate would provide for additional students and address long-postponed maintenance of University buildings. But the Senate’s operating budget for universities remains less generous than the one approved last month by the state House.
Negotiators from both chambers will now meet to reconcile differences between the two budgets. Given the differences, it is doubtful legislators will reach a compromise in time for the July 1 start of the 2015-16 fiscal year. After further review, Higher Education Works will take a stronger stance on budget deliberations.
State support for the University system would increase by $67.7 million under the Senate plan, or 2.6%.1 The House budget would increase University spending by $139 million, or 5.3%.2
As the House did, the Senate proposal would provide $49 million to accommodate 3,345 more students at state universities this fall.3
The Senate also would provide $300 million for repairs and renovations to state buildings,4 $150 million of it for University buildings.5 The House proposal included $200 million for repairs;6 the University would receive $67 million of that.7
Senate leaders noted a backlog of nearly $4 billion in needed repairs to University buildings. “That’s a fund that’s been ignored for too long,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “Our state buildings, our University buildings, have not been given the attention (they) need.”
At a time when most faculty at North Carolina’s public universities have seen just one raise in the past six years and 76% of faculty members who receive outside offers accept them, the House budget would authorize raises averaging 2% for University faculty.8
The Senate budget would provide $21 million for raises for community-college instructors,9 whose pay ranks 11th among 16 Southern states, according to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).10 But the Senate plan also includes corporate and individual tax cuts projected at $73 million in 2015-16 and $421 million in 2016-17.11 So the Senate budget includes no raises for University faculty.
“We are moving backwards when we ought to be moving forward. It’s no wonder that we are losing faculty to other states and universities,” said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. “We are coming out of a recession. We should be trying to undo what the recession wrought on our people.”
After requiring chancellors at state universities to make $700 million in cuts since the Great Recession, the Senate budget would require chancellors to make $17.9 million more in cuts12 – the same amount Gov. Pat McCrory recommended campuses save by capping state dollars used for fundraising.13 UNCAsheville, the UNC School of the Arts and the NC School of Science and Mathematics would be exempt from those cuts.14
While McCrory has pushed for a referendum on $3 billion in bonds – $500 million of it for University construction and $200 million for community colleges15 – the Senate, like the House, did not include the bond proposal in its budget. The House budget did, however, include $225 million in alternative financing for projects at NC State, Appalachian State and UNC Charlotte.16
The University’s Board of Governors requested $15 million in investments in “game-changing” research, competency-based learning and other efforts identified in the University’s strategic plan. While the House budget would provide $4 million for those investments,17 the Senate would authorize none.
The Senate budget would provide:
- $8 million to stabilize the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
- $3 million to stabilize enrollment at Elizabeth City State University.
- $2 million for community colleges and $9.3 million for universities to provide in-state tuition to out-of-state veterans.
- $8.9 million for the Mountain Area Health Education Center to offer residencies for surgeons and family-practice doctors in western North Carolina. Of those dollars, $3 million would come from the UNC School of Law.
- $2 million as a challenge grant for Western Governors University to establish a campus in North Carolina, provided WGU raises $5 million in private funds.
- $2 million for Union Square Campus, a nursing and training facility to be jointly provided by NC A&T, UNC Greensboro, Guilford Tech and Cone Health.
- $4.4 million (in addition to $49 million already provided) for purchase of instructional equipment at the state’s 58 community colleges.
- $200,000 for a feasibility study on community colleges providing a statewide, tuition-based driver education program.18
The Senate plan also would increase community-college tuition by $4 per credit hour, to $76 per credit hour for in-state students, or $16 million across the community college system.19 The House budget would put off the tuition increase until 2016-17.20
Neither the House nor the Senate proposes changes to the University tuition increases approved this year by the University system’s Board of Governors.
The Senate proposal also would eliminate $737,000 in support for the Hunt Institute on education policy at UNC-Chapel Hill.
And because the Senate would eliminate an annual transfer of $216 million from the state Highway Fund to other expenditures, it would end use of Highway Fund dollars for the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the UNC School of Medicine.21
4 Ibid, p. M1.
10 Southern Regional Education Board salary rankings supplied by N.C. Community College System, 6-18-15.
13 http://osbm.nc.gov/thebudget, p. 47.
15 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/House/PDF/H940v0.pdf, pp. 176-184, 201-202.
16 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/House/PDF/H97v5.pdf, pp. 311-313.