Sep 092013
 

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Rick Niswander

Forrest Croce

Rick Niswander

 

By Katherine Ayers

Sunday, September 8, 2013

 

East Carolina University took a $10.4 million hit to its funding during the most recent North Carolina budget session.

Rick Niswander, ECU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the 3.68 percent reduction comes from the state appropriations budget, money that is designated for classroom expenses like faculty, academic administration and advisers.

The University of North Carolina system’s budget was cut by $94.6 million, a 3.89 percent decrease from last year.

Proactive planning is vital to help mitigate the effects of the cuts, Niswander said.

“We talked about the series of cuts we’ve had over the years, so having another cut, everybody shouldn’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘Oh, my God, this is totally unexpected,’ because it isn’t,” Niswander said. “A year ago, we said to folks, ‘All right, what would happen if the cut was anywhere from 1 or 2 percent on the low end, to 7 or 8 percent on the high end? You’ve got to start figuring it out so that you can be ready for whatever that is.’”

Planning is essential to be as fair and honest with people as possible, Niswander said.

“What we don’t want to happen is to get a position open, and we hire you for that position and then we come back and say, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry but we weren’t planning ahead of time, and we have to let you go,’” he said. “What we do is say we’ve got this position, but we might not be able to fill it, and then we eventually have to take that position back, so you still don’t have a job, but I haven’t built your hopes up to dash them down.”

The same planning happens for students as well.

“We get that schedule out in the spring semester, the schedule for the fall, the students have a pretty high degree of assurance that that’s the way it’s going to be,” Niswander said. “I’d rather put this schedule together and have to expand it a little bit than have to contract it a little bit.”

The university has felt the effect of state budget cuts but it’s not always obvious, he said.

“If we had $10.4 more million, there is no question that we would have more staff and faculty working here because we are stretched pretty darn thin,” Niswander said. “But people don’t see it because they don’t see what could have been, they only see what is.”

He said that if students have been at ECU for four years, they may notice their classes are a bit bigger or they are taking classes at times they don’t really want, but they generally get what they need.

“But if you were to ask a freshman if they notice it, what do they have to compare it to?” he asked. “It’s kind of like opening a fridge to try and see what’s not there.”

Niswander said he does not expect an increase in funding next year, but it is possible there may not be any cuts, which he said would be an improvement.

State support of students is an investment in North Carolina, Niswander said.

“If mom and dad send their kid to (college), it is a reasonable thing for the citizens of the state to support the core educational component of what a student does because the state’s going to get some benefit from it,” he said. “They’re basically making an investment in our students that’s going to pay off later.”

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

via The Daily Reflector.

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