by Sarah Curry
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
The dust is settling following approval of the budget by both chambers of the General Assembly last week. It now awaits the governor’s signature to be formally enacted into law. Many referred to this budget as the "teacher bill" since much of the debate and focus was on the K-12 teacher salary increase. One area of the budget that usually gets its fair share of debate went largely unnoticed — the University of North Carolina System.
Just like Public Education and the Community College System, the UNC System receives a large portion of its budget from the state’s General Fund. Approximately 36 percent of the total UNC budget comes from state and local tax dollars. There are sixteen schools in the UNC System, some receiving more money than others based upon size, classes offered, hospitals or research facilities operated by the university, and other factors. Those schools receiving the most state money are UNC Chapel Hill and NC State while NC School of the Arts and Elizabeth City State University receive the least.
It is interesting to point out that the UNC System is funded like so many other government program –through multiple streams of revenue. The UNC System receives money through student tuition; federal, state, and local taxes; and private grants and donations. In total, there are more than 23 streams of money that compose the total UNC budget every year. In FY 2011-2012, the total cost of the UNC System was $7.8 billion. According an article from the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, "As a percentage of its budget, North Carolina spends more than the national average on higher education. And in real dollar terms, North Carolina spends more of its general fund on higher education than any other state in the Southeast."
In a year when legislators needed to find extra cash to fill a budgetary hole in a growing Medicaid program and also give teachers a pay increase, the UNC System not only avoided cuts, but had their total General Fund appropriation increased by $29.5 million or 1.8 percent over last year. The total General Fund appropriation for the UNC System was $2.6 billion for fiscal year 2014-15. Legislators didn’t put anything aside for the savings reserve and shifted most of the repairs and renovations to two-thirds bonds in this budget; the UNC System should be thankful their budget wasn’t cut like so many other areas of state government.
Here is a list of the major items in this year’s UNC budget:
$2 million in state matching funds for a federal program in manufacturing innovation for power electronic devices
$3 million for data sciences program research at UNC Charlotte
$2.4 million cut through management flexibility reduction in the UNC budget
$19.1 million increase for the Need-Based Financial Aid Forward-Funding Reserve
$1 million for the College Foundation of NC
$50,000 for National Guard Tuition Assistance
Need-Based Scholarships switched from non-recurring to recurring funding
$4,863,276 for the Yellow Ribbon program allowing in-state tuition for eligible military veterans and dependents
Eliminated $1.8 million in funding for the Teacher Preparation Distance Education Reserve
Removed $7.1 million due to a revised enrollment growth model that shows fewer students than originally projected
While many will argue there are areas to be cut within the UNC System, the fact is that they weren’t cut during this budget session. There are many moving parts in the state’s budget, and only time will tell if the UNC System will be so lucky during the next budget cycle.
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