Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 17: UNC Sets Sights on New Funding Sources

UNC Sets Sights on New Funding Sources

The UNC Board of Governer’s meeting on May 14 led to the approval of two financial “tools” that could change the way that UNC pays back construction bonds, according to Associated Press reports. The tools are included in two legislative bills that should reach the General Assembly within weeks.

One tool would allow the state to issue bonds using university property as collateral. Called “limited obligation bonds,” these would be paid for through state appropriations. The other tool would allow the university to use virtually any revenue-generating source except for tuition to pay back these bonds, including student fees, rent, grants, gifts and profits from athletic events. This system of issuing bonds would replace more traditional funding options, many of which require voter approval and rely heavily upon the pay-as-you-go system to pay back bonds. But “to rely on the pay as you go system means we would be getting further and further behind,” State Treasurer Harlan Boyles told the News and Record of Greensboro on May 15. The pay-as-you go system has been blamed for delays in many campus projects. Boyles has already been asked to add community colleges to the bill, a fact which could make the bill harder to pass, he says, because the state would then be responsible for paying the bill. (Community colleges currently receive funding through local governments because most of their buildings are county owned.)

Handling of Finances Questioned at WSSU

The vice chancellor for finance and administration at Winston-Salem State University, Clementine Cone, was unexpectedly “stripped of her duties” last week, the News and Record is reporting. The school is now undergoing a state audit of its finances. The alleged mishandling of finances is not a first for WSSU. In June 1998, an audit found that Chancellor Alvin Schexnider used state workers and state vehicles to have personal exercise equipment moved to his house. Cone was also reprimanded in March 1998 by the board of trustees when she moved $258,000 from a board-controlled endowment to one controlled by the university. UNC President Molly Broad said that while the audit reflected a “general lack of commitment to sound financial practices,” she did not think that it reflected illegal behavior.

Fewer College Graduates Choose Graduate School

Graduate school enrollment has declined 1 percent to 2 percent since 1996, according to figures from the Council of Graduate Schools that were reported in the Washington Post on May 20. But those figures are misleading, many academics are saying, because certain disciplines – namely the biological sciences, engineering and physical sciences – are particularly hard hit. Physics programs nationwide, for example, have seen an overall 27 percent decrease in graduate school enrollment. With starting salaries in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, many of America’s best and brightest are postponing graduate school to take part in a thriving economy and job market. While many administrators think the trend permanent, Peter Syverson of the Council says that the trend is only a symptom of a good economy. “Many people earning bachelor’s degrees believe at some point in their career, they’ll come back for additional training,” he told the Post, “They just don’t want to do it right now. And that may not be a bad idea, considering the market.”