NC Senate budget seeks to shrink UNC system, targets Eliz. City - WRBL

NC Senate budget seeks to shrink UNC system, targets Eliz. City State

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RALEIGH, N.C. - The North Carolina Senate Republicans on Thursday defended their proposed budget, which includes funding cuts to pay for teacher raises and plans to change Medicaid. University of North Carolina system to dissolve institutions that are "small, unprofitable."

The Senate plan calls for the University of North Carolina system to dissolve "small, unprofitable" universities.

The budget names Elizabeth City State as one such institution.

The Senate GOP's $21 billion budget for next year cleared committees Thursday. The Senate is expected to debate the bill Friday.

The budget would create a new salary schedule with teacher raises above 10 percent with a catch — teachers must give up job protections. Republicans would cut by nearly half the amount of money going to pay teacher assistants to help pay for raises. GOP Sen. Jerry Tillman says lawmakers had to find reductions somewhere.

The budget also cuts funding for teacher assistants (except for kindergarten and first grade) and slashes the budget for the Department of Public Instruction by 30 percent, or $15 million.

"That's just the way it is. If you want to put teacher raises at the all-time high, which we're doing, you've got to find $470 million somewhere," Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The measure also would move toward reorganizing the state Medicaid office, rather than embrace McCrory's proposal that's backed by hospitals and doctors.

Elizabeth City State, located in the northeast corner of the state, has 2,155 full-time students and 266 part-time students, according its website. The school has 2,163 in-state students and 258 out-of-state students.

The average SAT for ECSU students is 869, with an high school grade-point average of 3.15.

Of the students, 1,777 are black, 380 are white, 10 are Asian, 13 are American Indian and 15 are Hispanic, according to the school.

Enrollment has been dropping in recent years. The school had 3,307 students in 2010, 2,930 in 2011, 2,878 in 2012 and 2,421 in 2013.

UNC system president Tom Ross could not be reached for a specific comment on the school's future. Joni Worthington, the spokeswoman for the system, said, "For clarification, this draft budget provision, which may or may not be included in the final state budget, would require the UNC Board of Governors to study the feasibility of dissolving any constituent institution that fell below a specified enrollment threshold and to report its findings and recommendations to the 2015 General Assembly.

"With respect to Elizabeth City State University, UNC General Administration is continuing to work with the campus to address budget challenges, stabilize and build enrollment, and tailor degree offerings to fit its current enrollment and regional needs. We consider ECSU a vital member of the UNC system and critical to northeastern North Carolina’s economic and cultural well-being."

McCrory told reporters he had "very serious concerns" about some parts of the budget, including in education.

Also, the Senate budget would:
  • Cut driver education funding in July 2015.
  • Cuts funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. "They’ll just have to make do," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican from Moore and Randolph counties.
  • Eliminate 300 jobs at the Department of Transportation, many of which, budget writers say, are already vacant..


"The 2014-15 draft state budget released by the Senate Appropriations Committee offers clear evidence that the North Carolina Senate understands the critical role our public universities must continue to play in North Carolina’s economic future. Given the needs facing the State, we are grateful that the Senate budget recognizes the need to invest in areas that are key to the future of the University, as highlighted in our strategic plan. We support the efforts of legislative leaders to fund salary increases for state workers and look forward to working with them to address compensation issues for University faculty and staff. While the budget process is far from complete, the Senate budget marks an important step forward for our students and our State, and it demonstrates support that is crucial as the University strives to remain the most valuable asset owned by the people of North Carolina."

- Tom Ross, president, UNC system

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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