Insights and Observations
Monday, June 20, 2005
By Henry Hinton
Ballard sees peril in
Assembly's budget divide
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Taking a Leo Jenkins
style approach, East Carolina Chancellor Steve Ballard has taken the gloves
off with the General Assembly as it deliberates a state budget that may well
shortchange the university’s ability to grow.
In recent years ECU has
lobbied the legislature successfully for brick and mortar monies that will
take the university to a higher level. The new on-campus Science and
Technology building was an initiative started during the Richard Eakin
administration that cost more than $25 million.
Eakin and his lieutenants
originally got the planning money for the new state of the art science
building and then had to fight with Raleigh to finish the project when funds
With the land cleared for
the foundation to be poured, the former ECU chancellor joked that the hole
in the ground off 10th Street might become known as ‘Eakin’s Folly.’ That
did not happen of course and the new building is open and functioning today.
Then the legislature
wrangled for several years with funding for the new Eastern North Carolina
Cardiovascular Center, a joint venture with University Health Systems that
required $60 million in state funds. After much debate and finger pointing
the new heart hospital was put in a huge bill in 2004 that gave the
necessary monies to start construction but also funded many projects
statewide that had not undergone the scrutiny of the ECU request.
Now Ballard is extremely
worried about the way this session of the legislature is going. Faced with
huge requests statewide from public education, community colleges and the
state’s university system, the legislators are again playing politics with
the growth of ECU.
In short the ECU
chancellor is concerned that the House budget does not provide the necessary
enrollment funding to continue an initiative started at the university to
reach out to the rural and economically depressed areas of eastern North
Carolina. That is the kind of education that is at the heart of East
Carolina’s mission, particularly in an area of the state reeling from a
series of economic setbacks.
The House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Education has recommended full funding for on-campus
enrollment growth. However, it has cut $13 million from the budget for the
university system for distance learning, a part of East Carolina’s
enrollment that has grown steadily in recent years.
In a letter to the editor
in Sunday’s Daily Reflector, Ballard points out that “Nowhere else in the
UNC system is this failure to fully fund enrollment growth for distance
education more noticeably detrimental than at East Carolina University.”
Ballard points out that
ECU is the fastest growing of the state’s 16 universities due in no small
part to the distance learning program. He also points out that East Carolina
has over 50 degree programs offered through distance learning, including
education and nursing curricula which are two areas with critical
Pointing out that this
funding cut will disproportionately affect the university, Ballard says in
his letter, “Failure to fully fund distance education hurts the programs at
ECU the most and, yet again, minimizes the opportunities for the citizens of
eastern North Carolina.”
It is a theme that has
been heard before, yet state lawmakers still do not seem to get the message.
The state of North Carolina does not stop at I-95, but many elected
officials seem willing to give this part of the state short shrift.
Taking on the power
brokers in Raleigh can be a slippery slope. Yet, Ballard seems determined to
have them hear him on this and other issues affecting ECU.
East Carolina alumni
should be proud that the man in charge is flexing his muscle and pointing
out inequities when they arise.
Funding issues are not as
exciting as sporting events, but Pirate partisans should all get behind
Chancellor Ballard and demand that the General Assembly, particularly the
N.C. House, continue to support enrollment funding with the same standard
they have set and stuck with since 1998.
The final state budget
will be negotiated in the upcoming days and weeks as conferees from the
Senate and House decide what gets funded and what does not before the
package is brought back to the floor for final approval. That process may
take a month but some say it is possible the final budget will be presented
for approval in just weeks.
Demanding that ECU grow
and educate more of our young people in eastern North Carolina and then not
giving the university the necessary funding is unfair and dead wrong.
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02/23/2007 10:16:24 AM