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The N.C. House of Representatives released portions of its budget Thursday, and included several significant changes and some cuts for public higher education.

UNCsystemThe entire budget – which is expected to fill in gaps about whether raises are in store for state employees and teachers – is expected to be released Monday, and voted on by the Republican-led House that week.

Senate Republican leaders have not announced when their version of the budget will be done.

Several significant changes were trotted out by House budget writers this week for the state’s public higher education system.

The House did fund expected growth in the system but also calls for $44.3 million over the next two years in management cuts and would roll out a program that would push academically weak college students into a community college program before gaining entry into the state’s four-year universities.

Drew Moretz, the University of North Carolina system’s vice-president for government affairs, said the House calls for fewer cuts than what Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget proposed.

“It’s a better starting point than what the governor had given us,” Moretz said.

The system as a whole has had $658 million in management cuts since 2008-09, he said.

The House budget would also, for the first time, allow low-income students to get scholarships to virtually attend Western Governors University, an online education program that’s been touted as a low-cost education option by groups like the conservative John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

House lawmakers also want to delay more than 1,000 prospective students from attending the state’s public universities by requiring the UNC system to defer admissions to students who meet admissions standards but don’t have strong academic histories

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Commentary

In case you missed it earlier today, be sure to check out this new and sobering release from the Justice Center on the sorry state of North Carolina’s investment in higher education:

North Carolina’s spending on higher education cut deeply since 2008
Shortchanging public universities and colleges reduces access to higher education, hurts economy

RALEIGH (May 13, 2015) — Even as most states have begun to restore funding for higher education that was cut during the recession, North Carolina has continued to cut funding for public universities, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As a result, tuitions have risen dramatically and the quality of education here has suffered, which will make it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce.

“Smart investments in public colleges and universities will help to strengthen North Carolina’s economy,” said Cedric Johnson of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Communities with highly educated residents attract employers who pay competitive wages. Their employees then spend money in their community, boosting the economy of the entire area. That’s what North Carolina needs as our economy continues to recover from the damaging Great Recession.”

Nationwide, states are spending 20 percent less per student on higher education than they did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. With such deep cuts in higher education investment, colleges and universities have had to raise tuition, cut spending, or both. As a result, tuition at four-year public colleges has grown nationally by 29 percent since the 2007-08 school year.

For North Carolina, costly tax cuts in recent years have hindered the state’s ability to invest in what works, such as its well-regarded public university system. State funding for higher education has been cut by more than 20 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, according to the new report. Meanwhile, the average tuition at a public, four-year college increased by 36 percent during this period. Read More

News

Want to offer up your two cents about what type of leader should be at the helm of North Carolina’s public university system? Your chance is here.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors are hosting four public forums around the state in connection with its ongoing search for a new system president. There are also opportunities for the general public to provide feedback via email.

UNCsystemThe purpose is to allow the public to provide feedback for the “leadership statement,” which is essentially the job description that will be used to recruit candidates to lead the 17-campus university system.

Of course, it remains to be seen how much input from the public will be taken into account by UNC Board of Governors, who will make the final decision. The board has said it hopes to have a new president announced this fall.

The 32-member board, all of whom received appointments from the Republican-led legislature, opted in January to dump Tom Ross, the system leader since 2011, in a move speculated to have political roots. No concrete reasons other than a general desire for change were given for dismissing Ross, a former judge and Davidson County president who had been hired to lead UNC when Democrats were in control of the state. Ross will stay in his position until 2016.

The input sessions are in:

  • Asheville: 7 p.m. on May 26, at the Sherrill Center (Room 417) at UNC-Asheville’s campus.
  • Greenville: 7 p.m. on May 27, East Carolina Heart Institute (Room 1415) in Greenville.
  • Durham: 7 p.m. on May 28, Mary Townes Science Complex (Room 1111) on N.C. Central University’s campus.
  • Charlotte: 7 p.m. on June 1, Harris Alumni Center in Charlotte.

Information about parking and directions is provided here, on the UNC system website.

Can’t make it but still want to tell the UNC Board of Governors what you think?

The university system is also operating a survey (click here) through May 22, and taking feedback via email and mail.

You can send your thoughts to uncsearch@northcarolina.edu, or mail to UNC Presidential Search, P.O. Box 2688, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27515.

News

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors are moving forward in their search to replace UNC President Tom Ross, and have come up with tentative list of who will coordinate the search for a new president.

UNCsystemThe proposed search committee list was discussed during a four-hour public meeting Thursday in the Charlotte law office where Chairman John Fennebresque works.

The full UNC Board of Governors will vote on the slate of committee members at its meeting this coming Friday, behind held on East Carolina University campus.

The proposed co-chairs of the search committee are Ann Goodnight, the Cary philanthropist and wife of SAS founder Jim Goodnight, and Joan MacNeill, the co-founder of the Great Smoky Mountains Railway tourist attraction from Webster. Therence Pickett, the general counsel for MackTrucks/Volvo Trucks in Greensboro, is slated to become a vice-chair of the search committee that will present final candidates to the full UNC Board of Governors.

The university’s system’s 32-member governing board, all of whom got their appointments from Republican legislative leaders, pushed out UNC President Tom Ross out at their January meeting. Ross, who has headed the state’s public university system since 2011, will stay in his position until 2016.

Fennebresque has denied that pressure from legislative leaders or politics played a role in dismissing Ross, who had been hired by a board that leaned Democratic. Ross, a former judge and Davidson College president, was hired by a board of governors then controlled by Democrats.

Frank Grainger, a member of the UNC Board of Governors from Cary, commented during Thursday’s meeting that approval from the Republican-controlled legislature on the next UNC president is key.

“If they’re not happy with whoever we hire, then we’ve got a problem,” Grainger said.

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News
John Fennebresque, UNC BOG chair

John Fennebresque, UNC BOG chair

A subcommittee of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors meets in Charlotte tomorrow to talk about the search for a new president of the 17-campus higher education system.

The board’s presidential search nominating committee is holding a public meeting at the McGuire Woods law firm in Charlotte, where UNC Board Chairman John Fennebresque is a vice-chairman at the law and lobbying firm.

Though the meeting is at a private law firm, it is public and open to anyone who wishes to attend. The meeting is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the McGuire Woods law firm, 201 N. Tryon Street in Charlotte.

The only items on the agenda are a review of past presidential searches and discussion by the committee.

UNC President Tom Ross

UNC President Tom Ross

The 32 members of the UNC Board of Governors, all of whom have received appointments from a Republican-led legislature, are looking for a new president after President Tom Ross was unexpectedly pushed out in January. Fennebresque, the board chair, cited a general desire for change while praising Ross for his leadership and denying that politics played a role in Ross’ ouster.

The state’s open meeting laws allow public bodies (like the UNC Board of Governors) to hold their meetings in areas usually off-limits to the public as long as the general public is allowed to attend, said Brandon Huffman, a Raleigh-based attorney with the Stephens, Martin, Vaughn and Tadych law firm, which specializes in First Amendment issues.

“They can have it there,” Huffman said. “They do have to allow the public the same access as they would at any other venue.”

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