President Ross's Statement on the State Budget

Monday, June 17, 2013

UNC President Tom Ross issued the following statement on the House Budget proposed for FY 2013-14 on Friday, June 14:

Across the country, state leaders from both parties are making strategic investments in their public universities. They understand that talent is our economy's most valuable commodity, and they are gearing up to compete. Ten of the 11 Southern states, including our neighbors Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia, have adopted budgets for 2013-14 that will increase funding for higher education. They are joined by California, Wisconsin, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, to name a few.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina House has proposed disproportionate budget cuts of $107 million to our public University, on top of the more than $400 million in permanent budget reductions imposed two years ago.

As other states are stepping up to compete, North Carolina cannot afford to stand down. If the House-proposed cuts remain in the budget, it would signal a weakening of North Carolina's historic commitment to public higher education and make it more difficult for our University to produce the talent needed by business and industry. Since 2008, state funding has declined from 73% to 66% of the University's budget, forcing students and their families to shoulder more of the cost.

If lawmakers make the choice to continue pulling back from higher education, our state will be placed at a serious competitive disadvantage. Academic quality and our campuses' ability to improve retention and graduation rates will suffer. Some of our best and brightest faculty researchers will be pirated away by other institutions, and their research grant dollars-and the economic benefits they bring to our state-will leave with them.

While I am grateful the proposed House budget includes some expansion funds for the University's newly approved Strategic Plan and our growing enrollment, and that House leaders showed strong continued support for our research mission, I worry about the impact deep new cuts would have on our ability to provide a high-quality education to our students and help drive North Carolina's economic recovery.

We are operating leaner and more efficiently than ever before, producing more degrees with fewer resources. We have won a growing share of federal research dollars in recent years, putting those funds to work for North Carolina and creating jobs. We have absorbed large budget cuts that were painful, but necessary. Now, as the state's economy has begun to grow again, the House is proposing more cuts that are excessive and damaging.

As the oldest public university in the nation, our historic promise of affordable, high-quality education has set an example for the rest of the country. We must continue to honor that covenant with the people of North Carolina. Our state cannot grow and our people cannot meet the challenges of this highly competitive economy without a strong, well-positioned University of North Carolina.