Editorial: Legislature should support UNC System in its time of crisis

In case you missed it yesterday, the lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record neatly summed up the dilemma confronting the UNC system as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and what state lawmakers ought to be doing in response.

As the editorial noted, the pandemic has put university leaders between a rock and hard place when it comes to reopening campuses. If students don’t come to school and pay tuition and fees, the university could be forced to make massive cuts.

“The challenges are serious. A new report about plans to deal with financial losses related to dropping enrollment is alarming. The report looks at how the campuses would react to budget cuts that could result if enrollment drops anywhere from 2% to 50% as the pandemic grinds on. Reduced enrollment, of course, means less tuition and fees coming in.”

But, of course, opening schools as per usual would bring massive and unacceptable health risks. The answer, the editorial thoughtfully explains, is for the General Assembly to realize what’s at stake here and to act to preserve what it rightfully terms an “invaluable” state asset. Here’s the conclusion:

“If positions are eliminated, salaries slashed, workloads increased, research curbed, employees furloughed and other worst-case scenarios come true, the damage could be hard to reverse.

Once the COVID-19 crisis is behind us, the UNC System will be needed more than ever.

North Carolina can’t afford to base decisions about the university system too rigidly on dollars and cents. Enrollment drops and lost income should not automatically mean wholesale cuts in budgets, personnel and educational opportunities.

The General Assembly should make decisions for the long haul, so that the UNC system will remain strong and be ready — and able to help North Carolina’s recovery. That will mean investing in the universities to help them make it through this crisis.”


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