News: CJ Exclusives

BOG OKs 2007-09 Budget Request

Increases focus on key areas for the system, especially academic pay

The University of North Carolina will seek more than $270 million in new funds when the General Assembly convenes in January. UNC’s request, approved Friday by the Board of Governors, is $2.57 billion for fiscal 2008 and $2.63 billion for 2009, and for the first time includes enrollment growth funding ($48 million in 2008), in the expansion budget.

The request focuses on increased funding in what the officials call key areas for the university. The areas include financial aid, student retention, research, improving teacher education, and health care. The five areas comprise 90 percent of the requested funding, BOG member Edward Broadwell said.

The largest single request would fund academic salary increases, a wish-list item that has been a top priority for President Erskine Bowles. UNC is requesting $116 million in 2008 for salary hikes, which represents 43 percent of the requested new funds, Broadwell said. UNC officials want an additional $115 million in 2009.

According to the budget request, UNC officials want to spend more than $87 million of those funds during the biennium to increase salaries to a point where they reach the 80th percentile of salaries among peer institutions. UNC-Chapel Hill would receive more than $20 million, the most of the 16 institutions.

The remainder of the funding for salary increases would go toward a 4 percent merit-based salary increase.

UNC’s next highest request would go toward funding research initiatives at the campus at a rate of $61 million in 2008 and $45 million in 2009. Part of the request, $15 million for each fiscal year, would go toward the creation of what is being called a competitiveness fund. The fund would “support strategic investments in emerging areas of importance to the economic competitiveness of the state,” the request says. Some of the areas include nanosciences, marine sciences, natural products, environmental sciences, informational technology, biomanufacturing, port logistics, marine aerodynamics, and other areas.

The budget request also includes $35.6 million in 2008 and $19.2 million for need-based financial aid. UNC leaders said the need-based financial aid program is $12 million short of being fully funded. The system serves 35,000 undergraduate students from North Carolina.

UNC officials also want to spend $6.38 million in 2008 and $2.88 million on student retention efforts. More than $21 million ($13.8 million in 2008, $7.78 million in 2009) would be spent on improving public schools and teacher education. New health-care funding, which includes funding for the ECU Dental School, is being requested at a rate of $21.6 million in 2008 and $13.4 million in 2009.

While the budget request was unanimously approved, at least one board member wants more attention placed on improving funding for five schools in the system. Former Chairman Brad Wilson said there is an inequity in funding between Appalachian State, East Carolina University, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington, and UNC-Greensboro.

Wilson asked for a subcommittee to be created with the budget and finance committee to study funding issues for the schools. He said there should be a focus towards the 2009 short session to work on some of the funding issues.

“These things have a long ramp to run before we get to that place,” Wilson said.

Shannon Blosser is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.