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Bowles: Good budget news for UNC

UNC system President Erskine Bowles stops just short of turning cartwheels today, so pleased he appears to be at the final state budget rolling out this week.

Bowles has reason to be happy. The final budget cut to public universities is $70 million, far less than the $175 million the State House had proposed.

The House proposal would have forced the elimination of 1,700 positions across the university. It isn't yet clear how many jobs will be lost to the approved $70 million cut because a provision allowing state campuses to increase tuition up to $750 complicates the math.

A tuition hike would increase revenue for campuses, but it isn't yet clear, officials say, whether campuses want to raise those rates.

Here's what Bowles has to say about the state budget.

“Legislators really stood up for our University and our 225,000 students in these hard times when money is scarce. On a relative basis and particularly considering the economic climate, the 2010-11 state budget we received from the General Assembly was nothing short of remarkable.

We knew there were going to be significant cuts in every part of state government, and the University took its fair share. But the legislature really worked hard to help us protect the quality of education we can deliver to our students. While there were targeted cuts to various University programs, the legislature held additional management flexibility cuts to $70 million.

In the end, the General Assembly also committed to fully fund the University’s requests for need-based financial aid, enrollment growth, and operating reserves for new buildings. It also adopted the Board of Governors’ alternative tuition plan for the coming year and authorized additional tuition increases to help offset the impact of budget cuts. Importantly, the final budget does not include a provision that would have effectively capped University enrollment growth and denied access to qualified North Carolinians.

This tangible show of support is vitally important to the economic future of North Carolina. The Board of Governors, our boards of trustees, faculty, staff, and most importantly, our students join me in thanking the General Assembly for this remarkable show of confidence in our public universities.”

No enrollment cap for UNC campuses

A controversial proposal by State House budget writers to cap enrollment at UNC system schools is dead.

The plan to limit public universities to 1 percent enrollment growth in 2011-12 has been removed from the state budget, the final version of which will roll out tonight and be voted on later this week, said Schorr Johnson, spokesman for Senate Leader Marc Basnight.

The proposal was met with surprise by university leaders who have long valued access and affordability as the two key principles guiding higher education policy in North Carolina.

But House leaders said the proposal was not intended to limit access to education, but rather an attempt to get a handle on some difficult budget and enrollment planning.

(With reporting from Benjamin Niolet)

Proposal for UNC system-wide enrollment cap may be quashed


UNC System President Erskine Bowles said Friday that after talking with key House members the day before that there was a good chance the House would drop a provision from its budget to cap UNC system enrollment growth at 1 percent annually.

That cap would have prevented about 2,700 qualified students from being admitted this year, system officials have said.

 Bowles, speaking at a news conference after a Board of Governors meeting, said that he had also talked about the proposed cap with Gov. Beverly Perdue Friday morning and that she, like him, was angry at the thought of the system turning away qualified applicants for the first time in its history.

Perdue told him that the first reason major employers give for deciding to move  operations to North Carolina is the university system, specifically the quality of education it offers and quantity of well-educated graduates it turns out each year, Bowles said.

"We are the economic recruitment tool for North Carolina, and that's why she is going to support our efforts," he said.

UNC Board of Governors chairwoman Hannah Gage said legislators were catching heat over the proposal from voters in their districts.

"I think this has been very upsetting to families and parents," she said. "The idea that a qualified student would not be accepted because we have shut the door has offended a lot of people."

N&O Edit: No enrollment cap

On the News & Observer's editorial page today, a  a denunciation of a proposal to limit enrollment next year at UNC system campuses.

The editorial follows a recent story about a state House provision that would implement the unprecedented cap, an attempt to smooth the enrollment planning process.

UNC leaders were quick last week to question the proposed revision, saying it ran contrary to the state's dual higher education philosophies of access and affordability.

Today's editorial takes a similar tact. It reads in part:

"But saving money by limiting enrollment via statute is a dire step. One, for some would-be students - students who otherwise would qualify for admission - it will break that solemn and for many, life-changing promise of opportunity. Two, it has not been shown that enrollment has been explosive at all campuses. Some probably have exceeded sensible growth patterns, but that is hardly the case with all schools."




At UNC: An enrollment cap?

For generations, the notion of an enrollment cap for public universities has long been the third rail of higher education politics - something nobody has wanted to touch.

But a special provision in State House's spending proposal, released last weeks, dares to go there. It suggest a 1 percent cap on enrollment at the state's public universities, an unprecedented notion that has university leaders vexed.

Though plenty of other fiscally-challenged states are turning to enrollment caps or are even lowering student headcount, the idea is a tough one here in North Carolina, which has long held two core education principles dear: access and affordability.

But the House budget writers who broached the cap say it is a necessary step in order to provide some better enrollment planning.


Capping and non-consent

Staff is recommending keeping the enrollment caps at Cedar Fork and Forest Pines elementary schools for the upcoming school year.

Asst. Supt. Chuck Dulaney told the school board this week that the growth in the base at both schools will be too great for the caps are lifted. Once again, this means new people who move into either school's attendance area will be sent to a more distant school that has the space.

Leaving the caps in place will have repercussions for people who opt out of year-round schools.

Beating the enrollment cap

You can take on the school system and win over student assignment.

As noted in today's North Raleigh News article, Dawn Crowder's youngest daughter will be starting kindergarten today at Forest Pines Drive Elementary School. She had been told before, apparently erroneously, that she'd have to send her child to Wake Forest Elementary School instead.

Forest Pines is one of two schools under an enrollment cap, meaning new people who moved in after May 1 will be sent to overflow schools. Administrators had applied the cap to Crowder even though she lived in Forest Pines' attendance area before May 1.

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