RALEIGH – University, community college, and state budget office officials have spent part of the week lobbying state legislators for more funding for higher education, while arguing against proposed line-item budget cuts.
University of North Carolina President Molly Broad, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser, and North Carolina A&T Chancellor James Renick have been among those making presentations to members of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. The presentations, including those made by representatives from the community college system, focused on the theme of making college more affordable while increasing funding for university and community colleges needs.
Gov. Mike Easley’s budget request includes $2.1 billion in funding for the University of North Carolina for the 2006 fiscal year. The community colleges stand to receive $763 million if Easley’s full request is approved by legislators.
“This is a shared enterprise that we are engaged in,” Moeser said during his presentation Tuesday afternoon.
Almost all of the presenters focused on their belief that legislators should fully fund enrollment growth increases for both the university and community college systems. Easley’s recommended budget includes $73.4 million in enrollment growth funds for the UNC system. Community colleges would receive enrollment growth funding of $7.8 million.
In her remarks Tuesday, Broad asked for legislators to continue to fund the enrollment growth request. She also asked legislators to move the enrollment growth fund into the continuation budget, similar to what is done for the Department of Public Instruction. Kristen Crossen, with the State Office of Budget and Management told committee members Wednesday that the enrollment growth funding is not in the continuation budget because there is “not a constitutional mandate to provide a free higher education.” There is, Crossen noted, a constitutional provision for a free public education.
Nonetheless, having the enrollment growth funding added to the continuation budget is one of the top legislative priorities for university officials this session.
“It is our hope that as soon as it is feasible that the enrollment growth is part of the continuation budget,” Broad said.
The two meetings allowed legislators to gain more insight into what Easley’s budget request actually included for higher education and allowed for time to meet with university officials to discuss their needs.
Trey O’Quinn, with the State Office of Budget and Management went through the university request with legislators during Wednesday’s meeting. The request includes additional funding for financial aid, teacher education and other UNC initiatives.
According to a budget summary, Easley’s proposed budget calls for an $8.67 million increase in need-based financial aid for the UNC system and a combined $5.2 million increase to restore Pell Grant funding lost due to federal rule changes. Of that $5.2 million, $3.2 million would go towards the UNC system, while $2 million would go to the community college system.
“We have no choice, because we are committed to make a difference in the lives of our students,” Edgecome Community College President Dr. Deborah Lamm said Tuesday.
Easley also wants to spend $2 million, with $1 million coming from the university system and $1 million, from community colleges, to put courses from the 2+2 initiative online. The state is asking for nearly $3 million in new funding for teacher recruitment initiatives through the university and community college systems.
Broad said UNC needs the increase in funding to recruit and train teachers for the public education system.
“We anticipate the growth of teachers will come from mid-career people,” Broad said. “We are going to provide courses for them to be certified as teachers.”
Easley’s proposed budget also included increased funding for research and other initiatives throughout the system. The governor is proposing an increase in funding for biotechnology initiatives at North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University. That funding, $2.5 million, would exceed the recurring funding that was approved last session, O’Quinn said.
The governor also wants to spend an additional $1 million at the William and Ida Friday Institute for Education Innovation. That funding would be spent on research for teaching, education leadership development, and other initiatives.
While the meetings gave university and state officials a chance to make their case for increased funding, it also gave legislators an opportunity to ask questions about the funding requests.
One such legislator, Sen. Robert Pittenger, R-Mecklenburg, questioned Broad Tuesday as to where the system actually spends the money it is appropriated. In a meeting with representatives from the legislative fiscal research office, Pittenger said legislators were informed that 45 percent of the UNC budget request goes toward administrative costs.
Broad said the number is based on what is actually counted as administrative costs and said the system does not include library costs, for instances, as part of the administration.
“[Administrative costs] is a concern to a lot of us in this room,” Pittenger said.
Shannon Blosser is a staff writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.