UNC system officials want the power this year to institute furloughs across the public university system.
UNC system President Erskine Bowles and others say the measure would be preferable to the more than 1,000 layoffs that would be necessary if the spending plan Perdue proposed last week was adopted.
Perdue called for a 4 percent cut to the UNC system's budget, which would be added to a 2 percent cut included in the 2-year budget approved last year.
Taken together, those cuts would force the elimination of about 1,200 jobs across the system, half of which would be faculty, Bowles has said.
Instituting furloughs would spread the pain but might save jobs, officials argue.
"The thought of the damage 1,200 fewer faculty and staff will permanently do to our university and the quality of education we offer our students makes me sick," Bowles wrote in a recent e-mail to Andy Willis, Perdue's senior advisor for governmental affairs. "I know it does our governor too."
University officials have said for weeks already that the loss of the more than 900 jobs eliminated during last year's budget-cut process was nearly crippling, and campuses can't do much more.
The university system must be formally granted the authority to institute furloughs.
"Furloughing would be the absolute last option and only if we felt the cuts would be so big its the only alternative to laying people off," said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the UNC system's Board of Governors.
Last year, North Carolina imposed a 10-hour furlough on all state workers.
Faculty and staff leaders within the university system have already signed off on the furloughs as an acceptable alternative, officials say.
"There's nothing worse than losing a colleague," said McKay Coble, chair of the faculty council at UNC-Chapel Hill. "If furlough is the way to go, I'd much rather do that."
State Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, co-chairman of the appropriations committee on education, said the university should have the authority in case it needs to use it.
"I hope it doesn't come to that," Stevens said. "But I think it's good for the university system to have all the tools it needs.