News: CJ Exclusives

Community Colleges Draw Scrutiny

Report on system funding due out in June

In June, North Carolina legislators are scheduled to receive a study of how the state’s community colleges are funded and how they operate. The study, made possible by a special provision enacted last year by the General Assembly, is supposed to suggest ways to save on costs and streamline operations in the community colleges.

The study is being conducted by MGT of America Inc., a Florida-based management research and consulting firm. It would be a comprehensive study of the funding and administration of the state’s 58 community colleges.

The legislature commissioned the study in an attempt to correct continuing projections of budget shortfalls. The shortfall estimated for fiscal 2003-‘04 could be as high as $2 billion.

Senate Bill 1115 last year mandated that the Join Legislative Oversight Committee work in conjunction with the North Carolina Community College System to conduct a comprehensive review of the NCCCS. The committee approved MGT of America Inc. in mid-December to conduct the review, and its approval was shortly followed by the approval of the Capital Needs Committee of the State Board. In January the full State Board issued its approval.

MGT of America Inc. is charged with the following duties:

• Review the organization and structure of the NCCCS.
The review includes studying the number of colleges within the NCCCS, examining the location and size of each college, and considering whether North Carolina could save money by consolidating some colleges or programs.

• Review the formula used to fund the administration at the colleges. This portion of the study includes determining what should be the appropriate funding levels for administration of the various colleges and what should be the appropriate number of administrative staff members for colleges of different sizes.

• Review the funding of multicampus colleges and off-campus centers. This portion of the study includes determining what should be the appropriate number of administrative staff members and what should be an appropriate funding mechanism for administration and for other purposes.

In February, the NCCCS began conducting public meetings across the state to discuss the study and its effect. On Feb. 6, meetings were conducted at Edgecombe Community College in Rocky Mount and also Durham Technical Community College. On Feb. 10, a meeting was conducted at Sampson Community College in Clinton. On Feb. 17, meetings were scheduled for Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson. A meeting was also scheduled for 2 p.m. March 7 at Southwestern Community College in Sylva.

Along with NCCCS officials, the hearings featured a representative from Legislative Fiscal Research to explain the legislative mandate and a consultant from MGT of America Inc., to explain comparative analyses of administrative costs. MGT of America Inc. will receive up to $78,625 for the study. The State Board Reserve Funds will cover the costs of the study.

Sanders is assistant editor of Carolina Journal