Listen to the 2015 WCHL Community Forum

UNC: Under Fire?

From state funding cuts to the closure of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, there’s a growing sense in Chapel Hill that UNC is under siege.

But is it true?

“We are one of the best-supported university systems in the country, (but) over the last few years there’s been a small but steady decline in the support,” said UNC Provost Jim Dean at Thursday’s WCHL Community Forum.

But he says it could be worse. “There’s not a university in the country that’s not feeling financial pressure, and many of them are in much greater difficulty than we are,” Dean said Thursday. “We’ve had historically high support from the (state) legislature – over the last few years that support has gone down a bit, but relative to other universities in the country, it’s still quite high.”

Still, it’s not just a question of funding. Controversy flared recently when the UNC Board of Governors voted to close the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill – a center run by outspoken law professor Gene Nichol, who’s angered conservatives with his statements against the General Assembly.

Was the Board’s decision to close the Center an attempt to punish Nichol for speaking out?

Mitch Kokai, communications director for the John Locke Foundation, says no. “It’s part of this whole idea of making sure that if you’re giving the University a lot of state money, (you should) make sure that the university system and the campus in Chapel Hill are focusing on high priorities,” he says.

Provost Dean points out that the closure of the center was never a question of money. “The poverty center was receiving no state support, so there was no savings there whatsoever,” he says.

But Kokai says there was more behind the decision than that.

“A lot of people…remember that the center started (by Nichol) for John Edwards to help launch his next presidential campaign,” he said Thursday. “So it was seen to be political…and if there had been a good solid record (of achievements) that he could have pointed to and said, look, you’re going to close down this center that’s doing all these great things, I think he would have had a case.

“But that just wasn’t forthcoming.”

Regardless, both Dean and Kokai agree that Nichol and his staff appear to have been able to continue the Center’s work, even without official status – so if the closure was an attempt to punish Gene Nichol, Kokai says it wasn’t particularly effective.

Click here to hear the full audio from Thursday’s Community Forum.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-under-fire/

UNC Board of Governors Shuts Down 3 Academic Centers

The UNC Board of Governors voted unanimously in Charlotte on Friday to close three academic centers in the UNC System.

The affected centers are the UNC-Chapel Hill Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity; the Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina; and the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at N.C. Central University.

Friday’s proceedings at UNC-Charlotte were, at times, hard to hear, due to chanting outside by protesters.

Opponents of the move to close the centers accuse the Board of Governors of playing politics, particularly with the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, which receives no direct funding from the state. Members of the BOG have refuted such accusations.

That center’s director, UNC Law Professor Gene Nichol, has long been the subject of scrutiny from BOG members and conservative think tanks. He’s participated in Moral Monday protests; and he angered BOG members in late 2013 with an op-ed piece in the News & Observer that compared Gov. Pat McCrory to segregationist governors of the past.

In Friday’s News & Observer, Nichol responded to the BOG decision with an op-ed piece, in which he expressed gratitude for supporters, and disdain for the Board of Governors. Nichol warned that “an ill wind blows across the UNC System.”

He added that “the members of the Board of Governors have demonstrated unfitness for their high office. Their actions represent a profound, partisan, and breathtakingly shortsighted abuse of power.”

Nichol also announced that, despite what he characterized as a move by the BOG to punish him and censor free speech, donors have stepped up to ensure that the work of his poverty center, if not the center itself, will go on.

Last year, the Republican-controlled NC General Assembly called for a review of all 247 UNC centers and institutes, in an effort to save $15 million. The three centers to be shut down receive a total of $6,000 directly from the state.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-board-of-governors-shuts-down-3-academic-centers/

UNC BOG: Ross’ Departure “Nothing To Do With Performance”

Here’s the full statement fron the UNC Board of Governors regarding the decision to oust President Tom Ross:

Joint Statement of the UNC Board of Governors and President Tom Ross
January 16, 2015

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has decided to begin the process of leadership transition. The Board believes President Ross has served with distinction, that his performance has been exemplary, and that he has devoted his full energy, intellect and passion to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of his office. This decision has nothing to do with President Ross’s performance or ability to continue in the office. The Board respects President Ross and greatly appreciates his service to the University and to the State of North Carolina.

The Board and President Ross have agreed that he will continue to serve with the Board’s full support until his resignation becomes effective January 3, 2016, or when his successor is in place, whichever is later. Though the timeline President Ross had for transition is different from that of the Board, he fully understands, appreciates and accepts the prerogative of the Board of Governors to select the president of the University. He has assured the Board of his full commitment to fulfilling the responsibilities of the presidency during the period of transition and to continuing to serve honorably and effectively the nation’s best public university, as well as the people of his home State of North Carolina.

The Board of Governors and the President have agreed that the January 2016 resignation date is appropriate to allow the Board to conduct a national search for the next president and to ensure an orderly transition of leadership. President Ross has also agreed to be available to advise and consult with the Board and University officials following his service as President, while he is on research leave preparing to join the faculty of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government.

Joni B. Worthington
Vice President for Communications
The University of North Carolina

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-bog-rosss-departure-nothing-performance/

34 UNC Centers and Institutes Could Be on the Chopping Block

Thirty-four UNC centers and institutes could face the ax from the university’s board of governors.

That report comes from NC Policy Watch.

Closing any or all of the centers across 16 UNC campuses would be the result of up to $15 million in cuts approved by the Republican-led state legislature. The proposed cuts extend to speaker series, and other “nonacademic activities” as well.

The list was narrowed down from 237 centers and institutions that were compiled earlier this year.

Seven of the 34 current centers on the list are already under campus review.

The Board of Governors will hear presentations on Wednesday and Thursday before making final recommendations.

Groups under review for the cuts include the Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics at Appalachian State University; the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at N.C. Central University; and the UNC Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill.

NC Policy Watch quoted UNC Board of Governors member Jim Holmes, denying that the proposed cuts and closures are driven by any political agenda.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/34-unc-centers-institutes-chopping-block/

UNC BoG Votes To Cap Tuition And Financial Aid

The UNC Board of Governors voted to cap tuition at the state’s 16 public universities, but they say they’ll freeze student aid money at the same time.

The board unanimously approved a measure on Friday that caps tuition increases at five percent each year for the next four years. The board also placed a cap on need-based financial aid, limiting it to 15 percent of tuition revenue.

Currently, UNC-Chapel Hill and five other schools are already over that percentage. Those schools would not be required to decrease the amount of financial aid offered to students, but will not be able to increase the aid budget even if tuition goes up.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-bog-votes-cap-tuition-financial-aid/

UNC System Leaders OK More Transparency In Tuition Allocation; Students Rally For A Debt-Free Education

UNC system leaders approved a policy Friday to reveal how tuition dollars are used to provide need-based financial aid to students enrolled in North Carolina’s public universities.

This decision was made as students from across the state rallied outside the Board of Governors meeting for debt-free college education.

Following a policy discussion Thursday, the idea for the tuition disclosure statement was presented during a budget and finance committee meeting. It called for details regarding the use of tuition, by category, for each campus for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year.

The statement seeks to divulge to taxpayers, parents and students how revenue from tuition is allocated. Some universities within the 17-campus system already make full disclosure statements available.

The measure was passed unanimously, but not before a brief debate sparked by Board Member Champion Mitchell.

Mitchell said that he acknowledges the growing need for financial aid but questioned the method of hiking the already high cost of tuition for all students.

UNC campuses have increased average tuition by 55 percent since the 2007-2008 school year, according to the Associated Press.

“We are loading this burden onto middle class students and their parents, and it has got to stop at some point,” Mitchell said.

The majority of funding for need-based financial aid comes from the federal government—more than $1 billion was granted to UNC system students last year. The state was the second largest source, but that has since changed.

Campuses within the UNC System are relying more heavily on “tuition set-aside programs” to provide funding for need-based financial aid—money that comes from tuition revenues.

As of 2014, Campus-Initiated Tuition Increase (CITI), or CITI, has become the largest non-federal source of student aid for undergraduate resident students.

And as campuses depend more on tuition set-aside programs, an increasing number of students are requiring financial assistance.

Almost 60 percent of in-state students received need-based financial aid during the 2012-2013 school year, according to UNC System staff.

“There is a time when you have got to say, ‘Let’s not make the situation any worse. That is all of I am trying to do today.’ I am saying let’s stop adding to this issue,” Mitchell said.

As the Board voted on the tuition disclosure statement, Mitchell proposed an amendment to reduce tuition for in-state students in a new master’s program at UNC and to not give any funding from tuition revenues to need-based aid.

After removing his amendment, Mitchell said it was more of a symbolic gesture to prove his point.

Several board members agreed that a “broader and more universal approach” to finding the balance between tuition allocation and need-based financial aid was appropriate.

Chairman Peter Hans said it was his intention to form a need-based financial aid committee and promised that he would take action in implementing the approved policy change by the end of 2014.

Student Protest for A Debt-Free Education

Outside the Spangler Center where the Board of Governors met, Lana Nye, a UNC student from Claremont, North Carolina, finishing her junior year, protested with about half  a dozen students from the NC Student Power Union.

Their mission was to rally for a debt-free education system. They said the Board of Governors should work to ensure that incoming students graduate without debt by 2020.

As a Covenant Scholar, Nye said she had been able to attend Carolina the past three years through without loans by way of grants, scholarship, and work-study initiatives.

Nye said she was recently told that she no longer qualified for full support as a Covenant Scholar.

“I will be taking out loans for my senior year—loans that I can in no way afford. Never mind the fact that my father just emptied out any sort of savings he had on a used truck because his old one broke down. Never mind the fact that I just signed a lease on an apartment thinking that my tuition would be covered for the school year—because according to UNC, I have money,” Nye said.

The students said that this isn’t the last demonstration and that they will continue their campaign toward a debtfree education system.

New Chancellor Named For School of the Arts

The Board of Governors elected Lindsay Bierman, the current Editor in Chief of Southern Living Magazine, as the next chancellor of NC School of the Arts.

Bierman will assume his new duties August 1, succeeding former Chancellor of UNC, James Moeser, who has served as interim chancellor since last June.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc-system-leaders-ok-transparency-tuition-allocation-students-rally-debt-free-education/

UNC System Leaders Debate Need-Based Financial Aid

UNC system leaders agree that the demand for need-based financial aid will continue to grow. With that will come the challenge to find the funds to keep college accessible to students from low-income families, without placing the burden of high tuition costs on students from other socioeconomic backgrounds.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt spoke to the UNC Board of Governors during a policy discussion Thursday on need-based financial aid within the 17-campus system.

“At Carolina, more than 40 percent of those students wouldn’t be sitting there at graduation if we were unable to provide them with need-based aid,” Folt said.

For the 2012-2013 school year, 59 percent of in-state students received need-based financial aid, according to Andrea Poole, the UNC system assistant vice president for finance.

UNC System President Tom Ross said the growing demand for financial aid is an issue impacting universities nationwide.

“The need is greater than the available dollars—no matter what the source, no matter how you put it together— the need is greater than the affordable dollars. The demographics of this state and the nation are changing in such a way that the need is going to be even greater,” Ross said.

Folt said that without appropriate state funding for financial aid, the campus would suffer in areas that keep it competitive with peer intuitions.

“I think it wouldn’t just simply be in SAT scores and valedictorians, it would also be big changes in our first generation students, our underrepresented minority students, and categories of students in this state that are really important to our success,” she said.

Western University Chancellor David Belcher with Folt on the importance of need-based financial aid, not only to the vitality of a university, but to the economic development of the state.

The federal government is the largest provider of need-based financial aid. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, UNC system students received $794 million in federal loans and $275 million in Pell Grants, Poole said.

Two major state-funded programs for in-state students are the UNC Need-Based Grant, which allocated $122.5 million in the fiscal year 2013-2014, and the Education Lottery Scholarships, which provided $18 million.

Poole explained that Lottery Scholarships are given to students with greater need.

Each campus within the system also has its own programs to provide financial aid, such as “Campus-Initiated Tuition Increase (CITI),” which sets-aside funding for need-based financial aid from tuition revenues.

As of 2014, CITI is the largest non-federal source of student aid for undergraduate resident students.

Ross added that private universities across the country have also successfully implemented tuition set-aside programs.

Frank Grainger, Vice Chairman of the Board, said that he acknowledges the growing need for financial aid, but questioned the method of hiking tuition for all students.

“It is not a fact that they don’t need the money. We need to find a way to help them get that money. But it is not to take it from another fellow student that is in the school, regardless of what their social status is in the community or state, and give it to someone else,” Grainge said.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, Folt said that all UNC-Chapel Hill in-state students receive a significant subsidy.

The yearly cost of tuition is $24,472, for which resident students receive a $17,463 subsidy, and end up paying $7,009.

UNC-Chapel Hill in-state undergraduate students who receive need-based financial aid have a median parental income of $59,630. In comparison, North Carolina’s median household income is $46,450.

Halfway through the meeting, several Board Members said the discussion was essentially in vain due to a lack of concrete data for each university, such as information about how much tuition is set aside for financial aid.

Chairman Peter Hans tasked UNC System staff with collecting the appropriate data. He said the Board would conduct a more informed discussion at a later date.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-system-leaders-debate-need-based-financial-aid/

UNC Board Of Governors To Discuss Need-Based Financial Aid Thursday

As the way need-based financial aid is allocated to students in the UNC System has changed, so have the populations that the funding serves. For the 2012-2013 school year, 59 percent of in-state students enrolled in the 17-campus system received need-based financial aid.

The UNC System Board of Governors meets Thursday to discuss the policies surrounding financial aid, such as what determines “need,” the demographics concerning which groups of students are receiving the grants, and how state aid programs can work within the federal rules, which dominate the system, to better leverage federal dollars.

The federal government is the largest provider of need-based financial aid. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, UNC system students received $794 million in federal loans and $275 million in Pell Grants.

Two major state-funded programs for in-state students are the UNC Need-Based Grant, which allocated $122.5 million in the fiscal year 2013-2014, and the Education Lottery Scholarships, which provided $18 million.

The Board of Governors meets at 9:00 a.m. in the Spangler Center in Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-board-governors-discuss-need-based-financial-aid-thursday/

Students: BoG Is “Micro-Managing” UNC-CH Policies

CHAPEL HILL – About a dozen students rallied at the Board of Governors meeting Thursday, upset over two policies passed by system leaders. Students say they won’t let the matters go and will keep showing up at Board meetings until they feel their voices are heard.

UNC-CH Senior Kate Davis-Jones was one of the students who gathered at the Board of Governors meeting in protest of changes made to the drop/add policy.

“The Board of Governors has been consistently just stepping into the University, micro-managing, and sort of twisting things to the way they think the University should run,” Davis-Jones said. “They are completely by-passing any sort of criticism or input of people who are actually at the University. “

Passed by the Board of Governors in April, the policy established a system-wide drop period. It shortened UNC-CH’s current drop period from eight weeks to ten days. Any course dropped after the 10th day of the semester will appear as a withdrawal on students’ transcripts. The policy is required to go into effect by the fall of 2014.

“The wonderful thing about the eight-week drop/add policy is that it allows students to challenge themselves, and take risks with their education,” Davis-Jones said.

Davis-Jones said she wanted more transparency from the Board of Governors and also wanted the student voice to factor more into their policies.

Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Chair, said at a Board of Trustees committee meeting in September that it was a “one-size-fits-all” policy that will not help Carolina’s students succeed. She said receiving a “W” on a transcript created a stigma concerning the student’s academic credentials.

Student Body President Christy Lambden told the Board of Trustees that he also was against the policy.

In 2004, UNC lengthened the drop period from six to eight weeks, according to a University publication.

When the policy was introduced in the fall of 2012, it was met with resistance from then UNC Student Body President Will Leimenstoll and the Faculty Executive Committee, who voted unanimously against the proposal.

“It implied that students shouldn’t be pushing their education to its limits,” Davis Jones said. “They shouldn’t be challenging themselves, and they shouldn’t be courageous with their electives.”

Students outside the meeting were also protesting the Board of Governor’s ban on gender-neutral housing, a program that would have allowed males and females to live together in the same University dorm suites or apartments.

The UNC Board of Trustees voted last November to allow gender-neutral housing. Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp backed the Trustees’ decision, saying it would help keep students safe.

However, in August, UNC System leaders overturned the Trustees’ decision, and halted the program before it could begin the pilot year. The measure passed unanimously without discussion.

UNC Senior Kevin Claybren served as the Student Coordinator of the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition. He was set to live with three other females in Ram Village Apartments, the first four students to participate in the program at UNC.

“Right now we are just trying to show the Board of Governors that we care about this issue,” Claybren said. “We are not going to stop talking about this issue. We will continue to keep showing up as long as it is something that matters to us. We also want to make sure that students who don’t have voices are really heard and are visible.”

The program would have allowed males and females to share bathrooms and common areas in suites or apartments, but not share the same bedroom. The program was voluntary and only available in designated buildings.

Fifty-five University departments and groups supported the program, including the UNC Parents Council, student government and the executive branch of the student government. More than 2,000 students signed a petition in favor of gender neutral housing.

Chair of the Board of Governors, Peter Hans, said at the August 9th meeting that to enacting a policy change is a two-step process. First, the measure is taken up by the Governance Board, which was done in June, and then it goes to the full Board. Hans said there was no opposition to the policy change “whatsoever.”

“Our board wants every student to be safe and comfortable and included. The Board believes there are more practical ways to achieve those goals than assigning young men and young women to the same dorm rooms and campus suites,” Hans said on August 9.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/students-say-bog-is-micro-managing-unc-ch-policies/

BoG To Meet Thursday; UNC Students Criticize Its Add/Drop Policy

CHAPEL HILL – The UNC System Board of Governors is set to meet Thursday, this coming the after the group received criticism from many UNC-Chapel Hill students and administrators concerning a change to the drop/add policy.

Passed by the Board of Governors in April, the policy established a system-wide drop period. It shortened UNC-CH’s current drop period from eight weeks to ten days. Any course dropped after the 10th day of the semester will appear as a withdrawal on students’ transcripts. The policy is required to go into effect by the fall of 2014.

Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Chair, said at a Board of Trustees committee meeting in September that it was a “one-size-fits-all” policy that will not help Carolina’s students succeed. She said receiving a “W” on a transcript created a stigma concerning the student’s academic credentials.

Student Body President Christy Lambden told the Board of Trustees that he also was against the policy. He said once the policy is implemented, UNC’s drop/add period would be shorter than many peers institutions and could cause Carolina to fall behind academically.

In 2004, UNC lengthened the drop period from six to eight weeks, according to a University publication.

When the policy was introduced in the fall of 2012, it was met with resistance from then UNC Student Body President Will Leimenstoll and the Faculty Executive Committee, who voted unanimously against the proposal.

Board of Governor meetings are not public hearings, so if students do protest, they will likely be kept outside.

The Board of Governor’s meets at 9:00 a.m. at the Spangler Center in Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/bog-to-meet-thursday-unc-students-criticize-its-adddrop-policy/