Apr 262013



Rick Niswander

By Katherine Ayers

Friday, April 26, 2013

East Carolina University officials said their students will feel the effect of the N.C. governor’s proposed budget cuts.

Rick Niswander, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the university has already eliminated the “easy stuff” during previous fiscal year budget cuts.

“We’ve paid attention closely to not hurt the classroom, so from the outside looking at us it looks like nothing happened,’” he said. “These changes have come on the back side (of ECU) in what people don’t see, but that only goes so far.”

Nis-wander said that about four years ago, the university took a 16 percent cut and added a nine percent cut to that during the last fiscal year. Whatever cut the final state budget ultimately approves will be on top of previous cuts and is going to be visible.

“We’re starting to talk internally about how to reconstruct our buildings to get larger classrooms,” Niswander said. “Our average building is 40 years old and it was built at a time when it was normal to have 10, 15, 20 students in it. If we’re going to handle these cuts and cuts in the future, we have to start thinking about how we can have classrooms that are 50 to 100 students.”

Niswander said the administration has already started asking different colleges and departments which rooms in their areas they think could be combined.

“On the entire campus, we have 19 classrooms with 90 seats or more, so we need to double that,” he said.

Another piece of Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget involves raising tuition for out-of-state students.

“If that cut were to go into effect, out-of-state students would be paying a little over $19,000,” Niswander said, adding that the $19,000 does not include the student fees.

Niswander said that on average, tuition across the state is $12,000, and out-of-state students currently pay about $17,000. If an out-of-state student leaves ECU or decides not to come at all, the school actually loses about an extra $5,000 they cannot make up by adding another in-state student.

As part of a five-year strategic plan, the University of North Carolina system said it wants to work toward increasing the number of state citizens that have a bachelor’s degree, ultimately arriving at 37 percent by 2025. Niswander said the system’s ability to meet that goal with these new cuts is the “ultimate $64,000 question.”

“It is reasonable for the state to ask that we and everybody else increase the number of students we graduate, whether that’s by making it easier for them to get in, easier to transfer, or by making sure that we fully think through how we use online courses across the system,” he said. “But you also have to have the resources to do that and the students coming in the door.”

Niswander said that no matter what the final budget will look like, programs and departments within ECU have been preparing different scenarios.

“All of units are looking at ‘what would happen if,’” he said. “So when we get down to the end and the number’s this, it’s not like ‘Oh, now you’ve got to pay attention.’ No, we’ve been doing that.”

Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.

via The Daily Reflector.


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