A day after he met with state legislators to argue against permanent budget cuts for North Carolina’s public university system, UNC system president Erskine Bowles told NC State’s staff senate that a potential 7 percent reduction in state funding would have a devastating impact on the 16-campus system.
“It’s going to hurt, it’s going to hurt real bad and it’s going to hurt real people,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting in the Talley Student Center.
Gov. Bev Purdue has mandated that all state agencies plan for a permanent reduction in state funding of up to 7 percent. Bowles told legislators the system could absorb a 5 percent cut without harming its academic core, if funding is restored after the current economic crisis ends.
He called the potential 7 percent permanent budget cut “unacceptable” and painted a sober picture of how it would undermine higher education in the state, impairing the system’s ability to educate a high-quality, highly skilled workforce.
A 7 percent cut would cost the University of North Carolina system $175 million and result in the elimination of 1,600 positions, affecting 1,000 current employees, he said.
“We would have to do things that would hurt our academic core,” he told the senate. “There would be less counseling and advising, larger classes, a higher ratio of students to teachers, and fewer course selections resulting in longer times to graduation.”
But it’s not just students who would suffer. Bowles said a 7 percent cut would force the system to consolidate programs, close centers and institutes, increase faculty workload, and reduce expenditures for repairs, supplies and maintenance. The loss of personnel in security, accounting, housekeeping and maintenance would adversely affect every aspect of campus life, he said. Other departments would likely face reductions in personnel as well.
Bowles said the economic picture continues to be clouded by unknowns, including the possible impact of stimulus money from Washington, the demand for need-based aid by incoming students, and the size of enrollment this fall.
“I’m using every bit of political capital and influence to help us protect our academic core,” he said. “But I’m a realist. I get it. These are tough economic times.”