Legislators ponder $64 million increase in UNC

CHAPEL HILL— Despite worries of it being “cut to the bone,” the budget for the University of North Carolina is expected to be a little larger by the time the General Assembly concludes its short session this year.

Legislators are expected to consider a $64 million increase in funding for the 16-campus system when the short session opens May 10. If approved, the increase in funding will represent a 6 percent increase in funding on top of what had already been approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

The UNC system was to receive $1.82 billion for 2004-05. The proposal would increase state funding of higher education in North Carolina to roughly $1.89 billion.

Currently, the UNC system’s state funding is $1.79 billion. Assuming legislators approve the increase in funding, the UNC system will receive more than $94 million more in state funding during the upcoming fiscal year than it did in 2003-04 budget.

The reason for the increase in UNC’s General-Fund allotment is attributable to an expected increase in enrollment for the upcoming school term, as well as a recent tuition increase approved by the UNC Board of Governors. In March, board members voted to increase tuition by $250 for in-state students at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. Students at 13 other campuses saw their tuition increase about $225 per year. Those who attend the North Carolina School of the Arts received a $450 increase in undergraduate tuition and $750 for graduate tuition.

The tuition increase takes effect with the 2004-05 academic year. The amounts were less than what administrators at the 16 campuses had originally asked from board members. At the time, board members claimed the tuition increases were to offset three years of “budget cuts” by the General Assembly.

“Tuition increases such as these cannot be the cornerstone of academic quality and are merely a finger in the dike during tough economic times,” board member Jim W. Phillips Jr. told the Associated Press in March.

Higher education funding in North Carolina has not been cut, however. The General Assembly approved small increases for UNC each year for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 budgets. Prior to the short session, UNC’s General-Fund appropriation grew from 2002-03 to 2004-05 by about $54 million. That amount does not include, of course, the proposed $64 million increase.

For more information on NC budget, check out the John Locke Foundation’s Spotlight report on the budget. It can be found online at http://www.johnlocke.org/spotlights/2003063078.html.

Shannon Blosser (sblosser@popecenter.org) is a staff writer for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.