Higher Education Budget Cuts Hurt State's Economic Future
The writer is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
By Charles Jenkins
Special to The Pilot
All across North Carolina, thousands of students are graduating this month from the multi-campus University of North Carolina, which includes the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
It is a time to celebrate the achievement of a hard-earned degree - not just a piece of paper or stamp of approval, but the -turning point of that graduate and his or her family's future.
A student's graduation is not just a personal or family achievement, however. A graduate's influence in the educational, cultural and economic fabric of his/her -community has an immeasurable impact on the quality of life of this state's citizens.
These graduates - future entrepreneurs, teachers, social workers, businessmen and women, nonprofit leaders, health care workers, etc. - are change agents interwoven into the patchwork of North Carolina's large and small communities. They will benefit the lives of others through the education they received from one of the top public university systems in the nation.
Unfortunately, it is far too easy to forget the very real, widespread and instrumental impact of the University of North Carolina and its constituent institutions on our state's citizens when discussions of the state's budget arise.
The focus on dollars-and-cents cuts threatens the economic future of our state. Last year, UNC cut its administrative budget by 18 percent, a dramatic cut that cost the university jobs, but a cut that preserved its Academic Core. Another budget cut of 5.9 percent this year would begin to tear away the -quality of instruction that has proven for decades to economically, culturally and educationally benefit the welfare of this great state.
North Carolina's citizens must not allow our state to see the day when our young people will not have access to affordable, high-quality, public education at one of the 17 crown jewels of UNC. If this level of reduction is taken this coming year along with the expected reversions, the impact will then be devastating for the state's future.
In the southeastern region of the state an hour south of Southern Pines, UNC Pembroke proudly serves one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation. Nestled in the town of Pembroke, home to the Lumbee tribe, UNC Pembroke is a major economic engine in its community and in southeastern North Carolina, churning out graduates who have a real impact on the region and state through higher education.
Budget cuts to its Academic Core would significantly harm the quality of instruction UNC Pembroke has provided to so many since 1887. Specifically, a 5.9 percent budget reduction would mean the loss of 60 UNCP course sections, 7.5 faculty positions, and 18.5 academic and administrative support positions, totaling 26 positions lost at the university.
Furthermore, everything we do affects access and the unique challenges we face in retention. Therefore, any loss of operational funding negatively impacts our effort to improve retention and graduation rates and to serve the educational needs of students throughout the southeastern region of the state.
UNC Pembroke and the other 16 campuses of UNC were created by North Carolinians who fervently believed that higher education was the key to a high-quality life and the betterment of a community's educational, cultural and economic health. Hundreds of years later, we remain the beneficiaries of their wisdom and foresight. Sadly, it is easier and faster to tear down than to build up.
As North Carolinians, we must protect the economic future of our state by protecting the educational foundation our public institutions of higher learning provide to those seeking a better life for themselves, their families, their communities and this noble state.
In fact, one of the most important factors in a global economy is for the citizens of North Carolina to be more competitive in the number of people who receive a high-quality university degree and then go out and become creative and innovative in their work and life endeavors.
It is truly in the best interest of the state's and our region's best economic interest for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the multi-campus UNC to remain a high-quality university.
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