Eyes on budget, Republicans revive talk of closing, consolidating N.C. universities

From the Raleigh News&Observer

Two years ago, when North Carolina faced a potential $3 billion budget hole, then-UNC system President Erskine Bowles raised the prospect of closing one or more of the state’s 17 campuses. …

The financial picture is not nearly as dire this year – the state expects 3.6 percent revenue growth next year – but Republican legislative leaders are intent on reviving the discussion, sparking an outcry among Democrats and UNC advocates.

State Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a budget committee co-chairman, said Republican lawmakers envision possibly closing or consolidating one or two UNC system campuses to eliminate overlapping programs, save money and focus limited resources on the colleges and universities that are thriving.

“There should be no sacred cows,” the Winston-Salem Republican said in an interview Friday. “The UNC system needs to be subjected to the same scrutiny as everything else.” …

Some UNC leaders were quiet on the issue. Peter Hans, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, declined to comment Friday. But in November, he told the university’s strategic planning group that significant change was coming. He suggested the system shape its destiny, rather than “resist and hope the forces of change will mysteriously leave us untouched.”

The university’s five-year plan includes self-imposed efficiencies, and a report from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company proposed downsizing and eliminating duplication in academic programs. The consultant’s report wasn’t discussed publicly by the UNC Board of Governors or the university’s strategic committee but was used as a “fact base for the strategic planning process,” said UNC spokeswoman Joni Worthington. The $2.6 million study was paid for by an anonymous donation to the UNC Foundation, Worthington said. …

“It’s simply a part of trying to analyze where we do best and where we might have problems,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican. “I think it’s an appropriate discussion, but I don’t have any preconception about where the discussion might go.”

Democrats are wary about potential targets, such as the state’s five historically black colleges and universities, smaller institutions and those located in the same area, such as UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T State University.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/03/22/2772537/prospect-of-closing-any-of-the.html#storylink=cpy


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