State makes ‘significant’ investment in UNC system schools – Carolina Journal
“Transformative and generous.”
That’s the praise racked up on the new state budget by proponents of the University of North Carolina system. With college admissions decisions to come over the next few weeks, many students are wondering what their first choice schools are assigned to in the Finance law 2021.
the budget plan was drafted and passed by the Republican-led General Assembly this fall and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in November. It’s the first state budget Cooper has signed since taking office five years ago.
At a meeting of the Board of Governors after the budget was passed, UNC System President Peter Hans called it “a remarkable start into a new era, in which we will elevate our faculty and staff, expand our educational reach, revamp our campus facilities, and make education more affordable for more of North Carolina.
Overall, the budget paved the way for 5% increases for faculty in the UNC system, plus bonuses. Some $2 billion is set aside for the capital fund to cover the cost of building renovations on campuses across the state. For the UNC Board of Governors, the most dramatic change will be the system’s headquarters moved from Chapel Hill to the state government complex in Raleigh, at a cost of $11 million for new offices. Politically, the move means UNC Chapel Hill will have less direct access to lawmakers and appointed leaders overseeing the university system, while also making it more convenient for Raleigh-based NC State University.
Also in the budget, the NC Promise tuition plan will expand, and NC State University and UNC Greensboro will get new esports facilities.
“The Legislature’s generous appropriation for building repairs, renovations and rehabilitation is an important investment in the infrastructure of the UNC system,” said Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. “The maintenance of our UNC schools is an ongoing project. This budget goes a long way to addressing some long-standing issues.
One of the most significant changes to the UNC system includes the addition of Fayetteville State University to NC Promise. It will be the fourth university linked to the program, joining Western Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University and UNC Pembroke. With state assistance, tuition at participating schools drops to $500 per semester for North Carolina resident students and $2,500 for nonresidents. However, students will still have to fund other needs such as room and board, meals, and other mandatory fees. The estimated cost of this new program is $11.5 million.
The change could affect FSU’s enrollment and graduation rate. According to the General Assembly, Since joining the plan in 2018, ECSU has seen a 50% increase in enrollment. This rate has leveled off since the pandemic.
UNC Greensboro will use $2.4 million in funding for esports to build a 3,300 square foot facility with 48 PCs, three game console bays and VR glasses. NC State is getting $12 million for a new facility, plus $4 million for a mobile esports truck.
Industry leader Epic Games is headquartered in Cary, though Robinson isn’t necessarily a fan of spending taxpayer dollars on games.
“Esports facilities are a marketing gimmick and a financial gamble,” Robinson said. “They do not contribute to the academic mission of universities. It is unclear how successful these projects are in attracting new students.
Esports is labeled as a sporting event in which competitors work as a team. Competitors play competitive video games such as Fortnite, developed by Epic Games, and League of Legends, both accessible through social media platforms like Twitch. According to Insider Intelligence, the United States alone has approximately 29.6 million monthly esports viewers.
UNC system projects
Below is a list of new projects and programs funded by the new state budget for the UNC system. In some cases the costs are for only one academic year (2021-22), while in other cases the costs cover both 2021-22 and 2022-23.
NC State will have several new construction programs and projects:
- Engineering the future of North Carolina. Provides significant funding for faculty, staff, and other resources for expansion of the College of Engineering, $20 million
- Construction of a new beekeeping research facility, $4 million
University of North Carolina Asheville
- UNC Asheville will receive $4 million to fund 400 merit-based scholarships each year, for students from rural, first-generation, or underrepresented communities
- Undergraduate Student Enrollment and Success Funding to Improve Student Retention and Facilitate Work Placement, $10 million
- Student Debt Reduction: $3 million for resident, accepted, and college-entering students with an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less. Funds are applied as a credit to eligible student accounts to help limit student debt.
Fayetteville State University
- New residence hall and parking deck, $24 million
UNC Chapel Hill
- New business school, $28.7 million
- Burson Data Center Expansion, $600,000
Elizabeth City State University
- New aeronautical training building, $14 million
- New dining room, $7.5 million
- New university residence, $40 million
- New air bridge, $2.5 million
Winston-Salem State University
- R. Williams Auditorium Renovation, $20 million
Western Carolina University
- Moore Building Upper Campus Infrastructure Funding, $9.2 million
Other new projects for the UNC system include:
- NC Central University will receive new laboratory equipment and instruments, $3 million.
- The NC School of Science and Math will build a new Morganton campus for summer 2022, at a cost of $9 million.
- UNC Wilmington will build a new teaching center at Isaac Bear Early College High School, for $994,000.
- UNC Charlotte will expand its engineering department to $10 million.
- East Carolina University is receiving $5.9 million to support the Brody School of Medicine residency program.
- NC A&T receives $13 million to support new faculty and graduate student services for doctoral programs, including computer science, various engineering fields, energy and environmental systems, education and consulting in rehabilitation.
- UNC Asheville receives $500,000 for rural medical resource initiative.
- UNC Pembroke is receiving $500,000 for the acquisition and use of mobile medical units in rural and at-risk communities due to the pandemic.