University of North Carolina System Interim President Bill Roper toured the UNC Pembroke campus on March 6 to highlight the ways in which the state budget impasse is affecting the university and the community it serves.
President Roper met with university and community leaders and toured campus facilities that have planned repairs, expansions or upgrades in the current enacted state budget. He also discussed the stalemate’s effects to the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, in addition to other capital, renovation and repair funding projects at UNC System institutions across the state.
“It’s an honor and a delight to be back here on the UNCP campus to see, firsthand, the many successes of this rapidly growing university,” Roper said. “But we are not only here to celebrate that success, we are here to talk about a problem. A big problem that the UNC System faces across all 17 of our institutions and that is we don’t have a fully and active budget for the fiscal year.”
The university is one of three in the state that participates in the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan. Through this plan, the state reduced student tuition cost to $500 per semester at three UNC system institutions – Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke, and Western Carolina University. But the absence of a state budget would halt critical resources to a growing university, and has the potential to impact students’ progress toward degree completion.
UNCP has experienced a 23 percent growth in enrollment since the implementation of NC Promise and is owed more than $2 million in buy-down funds, as well as $3.1 million in enrollment growth funding—money that would support key academic and student success supports for the largely rural, first-generation and low-income student population. In addition, there is $91 million for a proposed health and STEM building at UNCP that would not proceed, and an
additional $1 million in operational funds for the College of Health Sciences that has the potential to significantly impact regional health outcomes.
The West Hall project currently underway includes a third floor that would not be completed. The floor includes much-needed classroom space, a teaching and learning center and instructional technology.
In addition, the budget stalemate has forced the university to put some key new programs on hold or slowed, including those in agricultural science.
“Continuing support of our universities requires fiscal backing from our state’s leaders on both sides of the aisle,” said President Roper. “My concern for the UNC System is - pure and simple - non-partisan, which is why I will continue to request that a solution can be found. I maintain hope that the budget will get enacted. UNC Pembroke is deeply impacted by this lack of funding, and it is at a critical stage due to its importance to the people of southeastern North Carolina and beyond.”
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings agreed, saying its crucial that the state’s leadership come together and move forward.
“There are really great things going on, on this campus. Above all, UNCP is about providing an uncompromisingly, exceptional educational experience by meeting each of our students where they are and offering the personalized environment they need to learn and grow.”
“The projects included in this budget, directly impact our ability to provide that experience and meet the campus growth we’ve experienced over the past two years.”
“Important programs in agriculture, health sciences, cyber security and others have been put on hold. Our nursing program has received more than 130 well-qualified applicants but can only accept 50. The purpose of our program is to transform the healthcare of our region through practice. We are keenly aware of the poor health outcomes in our communities, but with the inability to hire adequate faculty and staff due to the budget impasse, we cannot grow to meet those needs,” Cummings added