Friday, August 05, 2005

Harmful Budget Provision taken out of NC budget

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According to an article by the Raleigh News and Observer and posted on the website of the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments (, a provision which would have been harmful to the UNC System has been taken out of the proposed North Carolina budget. The full text of the article is below: Leader: Tuition plan is a no-go 08.05.2005 But UNC board hears the dissent By JANE STANCILL, Staff Writer A controversial proposal to give UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University tuition-setting authority is dead, Senate leader Marc Basnight said Thursday. "It won't get done, but it will have a very positive effect at the end of the day," he said in a meeting with reporters and editors at The News & Observer. He acknowledged that there weren't "two votes" for the tuition plan in the House, where members voiced strong opposition this week. But he did say he expected the debate to prompt the UNC system governing board to take a renewed look at the needs of the two big campuses. The powerful Democrat from Dare County made his remarks before leaving to negotiate final budget issues Thursday afternoon with House Speaker Jim Black. The tuition issue was one stumbling block to a final agreement. Basnight, who has championed the needs of the state's two largest universities, said the UNC system's Board of Governors has gotten the message that those campuses should get some special treatment. "What we have done here has shaken this group," he said. The tuition plan arose in the Senate budget as a special provision. It would have given NCSU and UNC-CH campus trustees the authority to raise tuition, within limits, on their own without going through the systemwide governing board. A chorus of opposition grew as critics warned that it would be the beginning of the end of the state's respected 16-campus public university system. Former UNC presidents said the measure would mean a return to the days of fierce rivalry and political infighting among the state's campuses for state funds. Then last week, four former governors and lieutenant governors issued a statement denouncing the proposal, citing "grave concerns" about financial and governance implications. That, Basnight said, was a "crucial blow" to the plan. UNC Board of Governors Chairman Brad Wilson said the proposal's demise was good news for the university system and a recognition that the system structure "will continue to work and work like it should." But he said the board has taken notice of legislators' concerns. The debate has brought more attention to the issue, he said, and the board will look at what more it can do for all campuses -- but with a particular emphasis on NCSU and UNC-CH. "We're at work, and we're going to begin the conversation next Thursday and Friday," Wilson said, referring to the board's regularly scheduled meetings. As the fall goes on, Wilson said, there will be new ideas about how to help the research-oriented campuses, while staying true to the UNC system's historic commitment to affordability. The tuition debate erupted after the UNC system board denied a round of tuition requests from all campuses earlier this year. But Wilson stressed that the systemwide board had raised tuition on various campuses four out of the past five years. Basnight said the campuses need help to stop a slide in the college rankings and prevent star professors from being recruited away. He cited two medical professors from UNC-CH who had recently left for Stanford University. Different campuses have different needs, he stressed. "These aren't Wal-Marts where you go back to the headquarters and just manage them all alike and cut them all alike and make them look the same," he said. Critics of the tuition provision blasted what they said was improper influence by a political action committee, Citizens for Higher Education, which was formed three years ago by wealthy alumni and trustees from UNC-CH. The group recently started a Web site to solicit support for tuition autonomy and other proposals. The group gave $360,000 to political candidates in the last election cycle. And e-mail messages showed that UNC-CH administrators and trustees had communicated quietly with Basnight's office about the tuition provision during its drafting. But Basnight denied Thursday that the idea had come from UNC-CH boosters. "This is my issue," he said. "It's not theirs. It's mine. They didn't even know what it was. ... They adopted my idea because I told them about it." The political action committee has had little impact, Basnight said. Basnight predicted another provision pushed by UNC-CH supporters would pass. That measure would give in-state status to out-of-state scholarship recipients. That would save millions of dollars for athletic booster clubs and private scholarship foundations but would cost UNC campuses $32 million in lost revenue. It would also open the doors of UNC campuses to more students from outside North Carolina -- an idea that has met sharp public resistance in the past. Wilson said he hoped there would be no lasting damage in what has been a very public feud between system leaders and UNC-CH supporters. "This is just a very intense debate among members of a family who care deeply about an institution," Wilson said.