Ensuring that North Carolina’s public colleges and universities remain top-notch national models of success doesn’t look to be a priority for Senate leaders. The Senate budgets for higher education – the UNC System and Community College System – fail to ensure that adequate resources are available to provide quality education services to the more than 400,000 students enrolled in public colleges and universities across the state.
Steady erosion of state support for higher education in recent years has played a direct role in the increasing cost of college in North Carolina, as colleges make up for those state funding cuts in part on the backs of college students and their families by increasing tuition and fees. Tuition at community has increased by 81 percent since 2009. At public four-year universities, state funding per student remains more than 15 percent below its 2008 pre-recession level when adjusted for inflation – equating to hundreds of millions of dollars in funding cuts. The Senate budget does nothing to make college access and completion an affordable reality for more North Carolinians.
Highlights from the Senate budgets for higher education:
Consists of 16 four-year public universities across the state serving more than 220,000 students, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics
• Provides $45.6 million for pay raises and one-time merit bonus payments to selected state employees. In prior budgets, funding for pay raises are included in the Reserves section of the state budget.
• Provides $31 million to account for enrollment growth at public four year universities, which totals more than 203,000 students for the 2016-17 academic year.
• Places $34.8 million in a newly established reserve fund to provide public dollars for students to attend private schools. (This funding is included in the UNC System budget but part of the K-12 education budget.)
• Provides $632,500 of additional state funding for special education scholarships by 15 percent. (This funding is included in the UNC System budget but part of the K-12 education budget.)
• Changes $4 million in state funding to ECU’s School of Medicine to recurring from non-recurring dollars. This funding is meant to provide support to the school due to lost revenue.
• Eliminates state funding for existing Principal Preparation program
Community College System
Consists of 58 community colleges across the state serving all of North Carolina’s 100 counties
• Provides $24.9 million in additional funding for pay raises and one-time merit bonus payments to selected state employees. In prior budgets, funding for pay raises are included in the Reserves section of the state budget.
• Provides $15 million in one-time funding to purchase instructional equipment and technology at all 58 community colleges.
• Reduces state funding by $26.2 million to account for projected decline in student enrollment amid a slowly improving national economy.
* State funding provided in Senate FY17 budget is not included in state funding per student figure to remain consistent with previous state budgets, which included this funding in the Reserves section of the state budget.