RALEIGH — The governors of North Carolina’s public university system learned today that a possible 15 percent cut in state funding would eliminate thousands of classes across the 16 college campuses and mean job losses for more than a thousand faculty members.
Although state lawmakers have yet to release their budget proposals for the next fiscal year, the body that oversees the university system was briefed on some of the impacts of severe budget cuts.
The governors were told that a 15 percent cut in state funding would result in about 9,000 fewer course offerings, with North Carolina State University and Appalachian State University each losing about a thousand course sections. About 3,200 positions would have to be eliminated, including 1,500 faculty jobs.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte leaders estimated such a cut would increase the average time for a student to earn an undergraduate degree by a full semester. The UNC School of the Arts reported it might have to close its filmmaking school. Appalachian State University said it would have to eliminate financial aid and loan staff at the same time that the number of students with financial need is increasing. East Carolina University’s library would cancel subscriptions to key academic journals and databases.
Even though the average tuition for in-state undergraduate students has more than doubled in the past decade, students next year might not get the courses they need in the right sequence to graduate on time, UNC System President Tom Ross said.
“I think the message is that we are doing our best to protect the quality of education that we deliver to our students,” Ross said. “I can’t tell you that we’ll be able to do the same level of service.”
The university system gets about $2.7 billion a year from the state, about 31 percent of its $8.3 billion overall budget. About 13 percent comes from tuition and fees.
House Republican leaders plan to begin unveiling their proposals for closing a budget gap they estimate at $2.4 billion for the year starting in July.
“These numbers that we presented are theoretical at this point,” Ross said. “We don’t know what to expect.”
As Gov. Beverly Perdue’s budget officer, Charles Perusse, last year asked university campus leaders to estimate the effect of budget cuts of 5 percent and 10 percent. In the past month, now as UNC’s new chief finance officer, Perusse asked campuses to go back and gauge the effect of deeper cuts.
“Quietly, we’ve heard (proposed university cuts ranging) from 12 to 20 percent being discussed at the General Assembly,” Perusse said.