Yesterday the appropriations committees in the General Assembly unveiled their prelimanary spending reduction “options” for the upcoming 2011-12 budget year. The N&O provides an overview here, with more detail by major agency here.
As with most accounts of the budget process you will read this year, no perspective is provided regarding these spending “cuts.” For instance, the N&O reports:
State universities would absorb a 15.5 percent cut….UNC President Tom Ross said the system cuts “could not be absorbed without inflicting irreparable damage to our academic quality and reputation.”
Sounds dire, right? But with a little perspective we can better evaluate Ross’ statement. As I wrote back in February, the UNC system saw its state support skyrocket by 67% from 2001-2 to 2009-10. This is during a time that student enrollment increased at less than half that rate.
Giving back a little of that substantial increase hardly sounds like “inflicting irreparable damage” to the system. As to the UNC system’s reputation, that already took quite a hit from the external audit and news reports showing how bloated with middle management and administrators with six figure salaries the system had become during the previous decade.
And as was previously pointed out by my colleague Bob Luebke, the UNC system is also ripe for some elimination of highly redundant and duplicative academic programs and research centers.
In terms of the overall budget picture, just remember that the coming year’s budget will still be nearly 90% larger than the state budget of just 15 years ago. Moreover, keep in perspective that leading up to the recession, state spending exploded (see pg 652) by 44% in just five years (FY 2002-3 to FY 2007-08).