UNC booster clubs or educating students?

By: - June 3, 2008 5:22 pm

 An interesting debate is shaping up in the legislative halls about the UNC system budget. The House budget falls $20 million short of the system's request to pay for enrollment increases and directs UNC President Erskine Bowles to identify another $18 million in budget cuts.

Governor Mike Easley proposed the cuts too, but fully funded the enrollment increase request. Bowles recently said in an email to all 170 legislators that the House budget would "deny admission to 2,125 students we have already admitted" and have a serious effect on the quality of education UNC can offer.

Rep. Pricey Harrison has a suggestion about where to find $8 million to help pay for the increased enrollment and House and Senate leaders ought to listen to her. Harrison wants the Senate to pass legislation that she co-sponsored with Rep. George Cleveland that would end in-state tuition for out-of-state athletes.

Athletic booster clubs at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State pay for athletic scholarships. Senate leaders snuck a provision into the budget a few years ago to allow out-of-state athletes to pay in-state tuition, saving the booster clubs $8 million a year and taking slots at the universities away from North carolina students.

The House last year approved Harrison's plan to repeal the booster club subsidy, but it has yet to be considered by the Senate. Seems like now is the time, unless Senate leaders think giving a windfall to booster clubs is more important than educating kids from North Carolina.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066