Words of Support

Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Operations Bill Bagnell and Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Phyllis Horns greet Gov. Beverly Perdue during a quick inspection of the ECU School of Dental Medicine construction site on Feb. 17. Operating funds for the dental school were included in the governor's proposed budget which she announced earlier that day. (Photos by Jeannine Manning Hutson)

Perdue pledges support for dental school during visit Feb. 17

By Mary Schulken

GREENVILLE   (Feb. 17, 2011)   —   N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue said funding to open East Carolina University’s School of Dental Medicine is an urgent need that should stay on track despite the state’s toughest budget in 60 years.

“I don’t know what we would do if we were to build a building this sophisticated to train dentists for all of North Carolina and have it stand empty,” she said during a visit to the school’s construction site Thursday, Feb. 17.

“I hope the people of the General Assembly understand you can’t do that,” she told university officials and reporters gathered on west campus, where the school’s foundation has begun to rise.

Perdue proposed biennial budget includes the $5 million the UNC system and ECU have requested to keep construction of the dental school on schedule. It also includes funding for enrollment growth and financial aid at the state’s universities while trimming the state’s work force by an estimated 10,000 employees.

University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said state funding for enrollment growth and financial aid are priorities.

“We are particularly thankful that (Gov. Perdue) recognizes the critical importance of our enrollment growth funding and need-based financial aid, although those needs would be only partially met, as well as operating reserves for new buildings,” Ross said.

Still, cuts of the magnitude proposed in the governor’s budget would put an estimated 1,500 jobs at the state’s universities in jeopardy, he said, and students will feel the impact.

“With fewer faculty, staff, and course sections, many more students would not be able to obtain the courses and academic services they need to graduate on time,” he said.

ECU’s School of Dental Medicine is set to admit its first 50 students, all North Carolina residents, in August, with plans to admit 50 each year. Currently, the construction site consists of the building foundation, utilities, and the structure for the dental school basement. The steel to frame the building is expected to arrive later this month.

The UNC system has asked for $3.5 million in fiscal year 2011-2012 and $1.5 million in fiscal year 2012-13 to operate the dental school.

North Carolina is below the national average in the ratio of dentists to population, and that ratio has declined recently as the population has increased faster than the supply of practitioners. That need drove the establishment of a second state dental school.

On Thursday, Perdue chatted with ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard at the construction site, asking him how things were going at ECU.

“Things are good,” Ballard said. “We are doing what we are supposed to be doing.”

“I hope I’ll be back again when there’s more to see here at the dental school,” Perdue said.


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