BOONE — Appalachian State leaders had high hopes for summer enrollment growth funding and a change in a UNC funding model in 2019-20 to support ongoing needs at the university, including faculty salary increases.
But the state budget approved by the General Assembly June 27 did not include summer enrollment growth funding, and it placed restrictions on the UNC Board of Governor’s ability to change its funding model. Nevertheless, Appalachian administrators say they are committed to providing additional funding for a faculty salary increase in 2019-20.
In addition, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the Republican-led legislature’s state budget on June 28, and Republicans do not have enough votes to override a veto without support from a few Democrats. That means there could be additional changes to the state budget as part of negotiations between the legislature and the governor’s office, but some, like Faculty Senate Chair Michael Behrent, are doubtful the higher education line items will see many changes.
University leaders for years have noted that the University of North Carolina system’s funding model has allotted fewer dollars to Appalachian State on a per-student basis than other UNC system institutions.
According to information presented by Appalachian State Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte at a university budget meeting on April 12, in fiscal year 2016-17, Appalachian ranked 15th among the 17 UNC system institutions at $7,859 per student, which was $3,834 below the average of $11,693 per student.
In response to concerns raised at the April 12 meeting about faculty salary increases — a topic raised at several meetings throughout the 2018-19 academic year — administrators said they were pushing hard for a change in the funding model.
But the conference budget adopted by the General Assembly included provisions that stated, “Other than enrollment funding requests for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years based on actual completed course credit hours, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina shall not adopt changes to the UNC enrollment funding formula or to the allocation of enrollment funds to constituent institutions to become effective prior to July 1, 2020, without first reporting the proposed changes to the 2019 General Assembly and the Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly at least 60 days prior to the effective date of any such adopted changes.
“If the Board of Governors adopts changes to the UNC enrollment funding formula or to the allocation of enrollment funds to constituent institutions for the 2020-2021 academic year, other than enrollment funding requests based on actual completed course credit hours, the adopted changes shall become effective on July 1, 2020, unless a bill that specifically disapproves the UNC enrollment funding formula is introduced in either house of the General Assembly before the thirty-first legislative day of the 2020 regular session of the 2019 General Assembly.”
Matthew Dockham, Appalachian State director of external affairs and community relations, said that while the language places significant stipulations on the BOG’s authority to enact changes to the funding model, “it does not explicitly bar them from doing so.”
“Appalachian continues to encourage actions taken by the Board of Governors to elevate the funding model conversation and appreciates the work done by the board’s Enrollment Funding Task Force, and Chancellor (Sheri) Everts continues her daily advocacy on behalf of faculty, staff and students at Appalachian,” Dockham said. “It is encouraging to see the General Assembly acknowledge the board’s work in the conference report, and Appalachian would welcome the opportunity to partner with lawmakers to revise the antiquated status quo.”
The BOG’s request for $43.6 million in summer enrollment growth funding — including $7.3 million for Appalachian State — had been recommended in varying amounts in the governor’s budget proposal and the N.C. House budget, but ultimately was not included in the compromise budget negotiated by members of the N.C. House and Senate.
The BOG requested the funding to expand summer courses so that students could graduate faster. Leaders indicated the funding could also ease next year’s planned transition from an enrollment growth funding model based on projected numbers to one based on actual numbers.
While the conference budget includes an across-the-board 2.5 percent pay increase for state employees, an exception is made for UNC employees. The budget includes funding for a 0.5 percent UNC salary increase in 2019-20 and a 1 percent UNC salary increase in 2020-21, according to a June 27 response from Appalachian State spokesperson Megan Hayes.
“Appalachian is committed to providing additional funding for a larger faculty salary increase in the 2019-20 academic year,” Hayes added.
“While there is no enrollment growth funding this year,” she said, “we will prioritize available general fund monies to support funding of this year’s faculty salary increase and will continue to explore all avenues for private scholarship funding for our current and prospective students.”
In a June 26 email to the Faculty Senate and other faculty leaders, Behrent said the administration must be urged to come up with an alternative plan for funding faculty salaries.
“After a year of promises, the situation with faculty salaries seems unlikely to be any better than last fall,” Behrent said. “With inflation — as low as it is — and the rising costs of benefits, many faculty will have less purchasing power this year than last.
“We must ask our administration to stop placing all its emphasis on changing the funding model and, instead, to come up with an alternative plan for improving salaries— a Plan B,” Behrent continued. “This will require tough decisions as to how the campus budget is allocated, but if the administration is committed to Appalachian being the ‘premier public undergraduate university’ in the state and wants the 20,000 students it is seeking to enroll to receive a quality education, they must fund faculty salaries accordingly — even if this means reprioritizing budget allocations.”
Behrent encouraged fellow faculty members to speak with their colleagues, faculty senators and to communicate the urgency of the problem with university administrators.