May 012013



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

East Carolina University students, faculty, staff and administrators will gather this morning on campus to mark Founders Day, a date that honors the school’s founding some 106 years earlier. It recalls the institution’s humble beginning as East Carolina Teachers Training School and the century of growth that made it a jewel of the state’s celebrated public university system.

The event comes at a difficult time, however, as a Legislature hostile to higher education stands poised to further cut funding for the University of North Carolina deeply harmed in recent years by reduced spending. Not only would that approach undermine East Carolina’s commitment to educating the state’s future leaders, it could compromise its mission of service to a region that looks to Greenville for leadership.

Rick Niswander has spent enough time in academia to know that East Carolina faces some tough choices in the coming month. The university’s vice chancellor for administration and finance recently said budget cuts since 2009 of 16 and 9 percent have forced the school to do more with less. At the same time, tuition has increased steadily, so that students are paying ever more at UNC schools.

For East Carolina, the effects are widespread and problematic. The school has done well to trim administrative costs to their limit in order to maximize spending on faculty retention and other expenses directly tied to education, but are seeing some of their best and brightest instructors lured away to other states and private institutions. At the same time, the school needs to invest in infrastructure to accommodate a growing student population.

If the budget proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory wins legislative approval, it will worsen those problems by giving universities less while charging students more. And while key leaders in the General Assembly have said they will not look to eliminate any UNC campuses this year, the specter of doing so in the future casts a pall over the university system. The net result will be the inevitable decline of the state’s most important resource.

For a school like East Carolina, that will mean more than the loss of programs or colleges. A decline in funding will harm Greenville and Pitt County, where businesses depend on the university, and be felt across a region traditionally served by the school. Lawmakers would do well to emulate the vision of their colleagues some 106 years prior and act with vision when it comes to this university.

via The Daily Reflector.


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