column: new state budget delivers strong results for higher education | Opinion

For the first time in three years, North Carolina will have a budget for 2021-2023.

After protracted negotiations between Governor Roy Cooper, Speaker of the Senate Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore, the General Assembly last week approved a plan that will spend $ 25.9 billion in 2021-2022 and 27 billion in 2022-23.1 Cooper signed it on Thursday.

“The state budget that passes this week… is a remarkable start to a new era,” said Peter Hans, president of the UNC system. “We are extremely grateful to all of our elected leaders for paying attention to public higher education. “

Cooper and the legislative leaders had $ 6.5 billion in excess funds to work on. Much of the federal money the state has received for alleviating the coronavirus pandemic is one-time money, and it would be a mistake to commit those dollars to recurring expenses like increases.

But bonuses and investment projects are appropriate uses for one-time money – and lawmakers have taken advantage of them.

Hans noted that an injection of over $ 2 billion in capital spending is the biggest capital expenditure for the UNC system since a bond referendum in 2000.

  • Increases: 2.5% in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 for all government employees, plus a bonus of $ 1,000 and an additional bonus of $ 500 for any government employee who earns less than 75,000 $.

“Our faculty and staff have gone through a very difficult time over the past 20 months,” said Hans. Yet “they have been there for our students day in and day out. “

  • Faculty Recruitment and Retention Fund: North Carolina community colleges rank 41st in the country for faculty salaries. So lawmakers created a new $ 8.6 million fund to recruit and retain community college professors who receive competing offers. The UNC system receives $ 5 million for its recruitment and retention fund.
  • Repairs and renovations: The UNC system will receive $ 250 million over each of the next two years for building repairs. The UNC system consists of nearly 3,000 buildings with an area of ​​approximately 90 million square feet, roughly the equivalent of 90 shopping centers. So he has a huge backlog of repair and maintenance needs. The NC Community College System will receive $ 100 million annually for new construction, repairs and renovations.
  • Project Kitty Hawk: The UNC System will receive $ 97 million to create Project Kitty Hawk, a non-profit digital learning platform for UNC System institutions to serve adult learners.

“We have over a million people in this state with both college degrees and no degrees,” Hans said. “We believe it is our duty to help these students.

  • Enrollment Growth: Unlike many universities across the country, schools in the UNC system have increased total enrollment this year. The system will receive $ 67 million to expand services to additional students.
  • NC Promise: NC Promise already offers tuition fees of $ 500 per semester at Western Carolina University, UNC Pembroke, and Elizabeth City State University. The budget adds Fayetteville State University to the program in 2022-2023, at a cost of $ 11.5 million. The total cost will increase to $ 66 million in 2021-2022 and $ 82.5 million in 2022-2023.
  • Engineering of the future: The budget provides $ 20 million to expand engineering offerings to three campuses: NC State ($ 12.5 million); UNC Charlotte ($ 5 million); and NC A&T ($ 2.5 million). NC A&T will also receive $ 5.5 million to support new doctoral programs.
  • Sports scholarships: UNC system schools will again be allowed to count out-of-state athletes who receive full scholarships as state residents and pay their scholarships at the tuition rates of the state. ‘State.
  • Free Tuition for NCSSM / UNCSA High School Alumni: Graduates of the NC School of Science and Mathematics and the UNC School of the Arts will be guaranteed a four-year scholarship if they attend a school in the UNC system.
  • NCSSM Morganton: The budget provides $ 3.9 million in 2021-2022 and $ 6.8 million in 2022-2023 to operate the new campus of the School of Science and Math in Morganton, which will open in the summer 2022.
  • UNC System move to Raleigh: Budget orders UNC Board of Governors to move UNC System office from Chapel Hill to Raleigh by end of 2022, provides $ 3.75 million to rent office space . The budget allocates $ 11 million in 2022-2023 to plan for a $ 100 million structure that would house the UNC system, the state community college system, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Commerce.
  • Broadband expansion: $ 15 million is allocated to improve broadband access in 25 rural community colleges. Beyond that, the budget allocates $ 970 million to expand broadband to rural and other unserved areas.

David Rice is a writer for Higher Ed Works, a non-partisan public charity that supports public higher education in North Carolina.

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