Senator Brunstetter Wants State To Consider Consolidating UNC School System

5:40 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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Piedmont Triad, NC -- Senator Pete Brunstetter is getting some push-back for comments he made about the University of North Carolina school system.

The senator says the state should consider closing down some of the UNC schools to save money.

"I think our members definitely envision that there could be some consolidation between campuses, and we might need to go from 16 down to 15, 14, something like that," Brunstetter was quoted as saying while lawmakers were reviewing Governor Pat McCrory's budget proposal for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. 

The governor proposes a funding cut of $135 million from the UNC system.

Read: Budget Cuts Could Jeopardize Some UNC Campuses

The comments have caused groups like the North Carolina Democratic Party and Progress NC to release statements expressing disappointment.

The North Carolina Democratic Party chair wrote, "at a time like this, when our economy is on the rebound, the last thing that we should think about doing is limiting our students' educational opportunities."

 

Progress North Carolina also sent the station a statement which said in part, "there is no better way to destroy a local economy than to close a college campus."

But in light of criticism, the senator is not backing down.

Friday, he explained to WFMY News 2 that the question of whether any UNC campus should be closed is a tough one, but still deserves to be discussed.

"What senate members want to see is they want to see a good, hard, honest look at does it still make sense to run a 16-campus system. And does that give us our best product," Brunstetter said.

At this time, Brunstetter says no specific schools are targeted and, in fact, even if the legislature were to agree to consolidate any of the UNC schools to save money, according to the lawmaker, Piedmont Triad UNC schools may be safe.

Brunstetter says he doesn't see any of the four campuses in the Triad (WSSU, UNCG, NC A&T and UNC School of Arts) closing because they are "performing well."

But the senator says a critical look at how the individual UNC schools across the state are doing and the possibility of closing down a few campuses should not be ruled out.

"By having fewer infrastructures that you're supporting, you can potentially keep your cost down enough so that you can keep tuition low," he said.

Representative Marcus Brandon from Guilford County called the idea "silly," explaining that such a move could be detrimental.

"What you're doing is you're just devastating towns. This is not just like, OK, you can take a school away. It's a whole engine for a lot of communities," Rep. Brandon said, explaining that the UNC system has already had to make severe budget cuts and reducing funding further or closing some campuses could cause a negative ripple effect through the state.

"How many people would go unemployed? How many people would go into the unemployment system? Would go into our Medicaid system? All of these things you have to take into account," he said.

Brunstetter has not yet presented a formal proposal. He says at this point, his comments are just an idea.

If and when he does formally introduce the idea, it would need to be studied and reviewed.

He says perhaps the Board of Governors could take that on or a provision to study the UNC system could be included in next year's budget.

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