School Law Bulletin #2003/08

Changes Affecting Higher Education

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

In 2000 the General Assembly proposed—and the voters approved—issuance of $2.5 billion in general obligation bonds for capital improvements at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and $600 million for the North Carolina Community College System. Since then, the funding news for UNC and the community colleges has been uniformly dismal, as the state has suffered through an economic downturn and overall revenue shortfalls. The tough times continued in 2003.

The gloomy economic picture dominated legislative activity in 2003, but a number of other considerations provided a background context. One study indicated that the funding mechanisms in place work to the measurable detriment of five of UNC’s sixteen constituent institutions. Some support- ers of the Chapel Hill campus have agitated for an increase in the 18-percent cap on out-of-state students. Elements within the university system have argued that Boards of Trustees of constituent campuses should have tuition-setting authority independent of the UNC Board of Governors. In 2001 the General Assembly created the UNC Board of Governors Study Commission to study the size, terms, and method of selecting members of the university’s governing board. The impetus for that study was a concern expressed by some that the centralized system for governing UNC’s sixteen constituent institutions was insufficiently responsive to the unique needs and opportunities of individual campuses. The General Assembly directed the study commission to report its findings to the 2003 session of the legislature, but it did not.

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