The state's community colleges got a big boost in the final state budget - full funding for its rapid growth in enrollment.
The budget issues $81 million to community colleges to fully fund enrollment that increased 15 percent this year. Across the state's 58 community colleges, total full-time enrollment went up by about 30,000 students - which is about the size of N.C. State University. That's a lot of new students in a year and the funding will help ease classroom crunches that have seen instructors teach up to 8 courses a semester in classrooms swollen with up to 40 students each.
"The enrollment growth funding is huge," Scott Ralls, president of the community college system, said Tuesday. "It lets us keep our nose above water."
Another big budget line for community colleges: $33 million to replace and purchase new equipment. This is particularly important for the health and technical courses that are in such demand now across the community college system, Ralls said. "We needed to make a jump in high-tech [equipment] and replace the old stuff," he said. "It's a big shot in the arm for us."
The budget does cut the community college system's budget by $15 million, a flexibility cut that will be passed down to individual colleges to make as they choose.