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UNC System is getting $3.7 billion from the state budget. Here’s where the money is going.

A wide shot of the University of North Carolina Charlotte's campus in February 2023.
Leiada Krozjhen
The UNC System Board of Governors allocated $3.7 billion from the state budget. This includes investments in faculty salary increases, athletics and rural healthcare.

The UNC System Board of Governors allocated $3.7 billion of operating expenses from the state budget. The two-year funding plan includes money for new university programs, rural healthcare partnerships and faculty salary increases.

The state budget also reduced funds in some areas, including an over $52 million decrease across the UNC System due to lower student enrollment.

Here’s a few of the budget’s big ticket items:

Personnel Funds (collective $431 million)

There are several faculty and staff-specific funds in the budget. The biggest is a 7% salary increase over two years for all university employees, totaling $381 million of recurring funds.

Nursing faculty at the system’s universities will get an additional salary increase. Over $8 million will be used to increase starting pay by a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 15%.

“Cumulatively, UNC System employees’ paychecks are nearly 14 percent higher than they were in 2021,” said UNC System President Peter Hans in a statement. “Faculty and staff work hard to serve our students and our mission, and we need to compensate them, particularly given inflationary pressures.

$10 million will go to the system’s Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund. The endowment uses a combination of private and state funds to hire faculty.

The board approved new rules for which subjects can have distinguished professorships. They will now only be given in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Subjects outside of this category will keep the distinguished professorship positions they’ve already established, but are no longer allowed to create new ones.

The board also allocated funds to both increase and lessen faculty loads.

$15 million of recurring funds will be used for the system’s faculty recruitment and retention fund.

Even more money will go toward the system's “faculty realignment program.” The $16.8 million fund will create incentives for tenured faculty to retire.

The money will go to five universities in the system that currently or are anticipated to have declining enrollment: East Carolina University, NC Central University, University of North Carolina Asheville and University of North Carolina Greensboro and Winston-Salem State University.

Enrollment Change Funding (decrease of $52.4 million)

In 2022, the UNC System had a 2.9% decrease of in-state student credit hours. This reduction will collectively cost the system’s universities $52 million of recurring funds from the state.

UNC System CFO Jennifer Haygood said some of these funds will be offset by performance change funds, which are based on a universities’ student success, affordability and productivity.

“That totaled a positive $32.9 million,” Haygood said during the meeting. “However, they did do that on a nonrecurring basis.”

Chart showing enrollment change funding for UNC System Board of Governors. The system lost a total of $52.4 million dollars in funds due to lower enrollment at its institutions.
UNC System Board of Governors
The General Assembly decreased the UNC System's funding by $52.4 million due to lower enrollment.

Rural Health Care Funds (collective 48.5 million)

$25 million will go to UNC Health to support its Rural Healthcare Stabilization program. The money will be loaned to rural hospitals that are experiencing bankruptcy, supply shortages and other financial crises.

The system is also launching a rural medical training fund. $23.5 million ($8 million recurring) will go to residency programs at ECU Health, UNC Health and other UNC System institutions.

Healthcare Workforce Expansion Program ($40 million)

The system allocated $15 million this year and $25 million the next to expand healthcare degree courses on its campuses. Its purpose is to increase the number of graduating students entering the healthcare field.

“We continue to see this healthcare theme that was throughout the state budget,” Haygood said.

Athletic Programming Funds (collective $33 million)

The system’s smallest athletic programs will receive a collective of $17 million. The money will be distributed equally among ten institutions.

Chart showing athletic department operating funds. $1 million dollars each will be given to ECSU, FSU, NC A&T, NCCU, UNCA, UNCG, UNCP, UNCW, WCU and WSSU for their athletic programs.
UNC System Board of Governors
Chart showing state budget allocations for each of the ten universities. $10 million of nonrecurring funds will go to their athletic departments this year and $7 million the next.

“Collectively our athletic programs generate a $1.1 billion economic benefit to our state on an annual basis,” Haygood said. “I believe these funds are in recognition of that contribution to the state’s prosperity.”

The system also allocated funding for athletic programs off the field. A total of about $16 million will go toward forming and improving esports offerings at The University of North Carolina Greensboro and The University of North Carolina Charlotte.

$15.45 million ($1.45 million recurring) will help form the UNC Greensboro Scholastic Esports Alliance. It will function as a statewide esports league for middle and highschools. The other 500,000 will support UNC Charlotte’s esports programming.

Completion Assistance Program ($4 million)

The system’s completion assistance program provides financial aid to students who are on track to graduate on time, but are at risk of dropping out due to cost. The budget will give these students up to $1,000 to continue their education.

The program is only available at seven schools in the system.

UNC School of Government (decrease of $2.5 million)

The General Assembly cut funding for UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government by $2.5 million. Haygood said the school is planning for this reduction by deferring the launch of new programs, pausing some activities and keeping positions vacant.

This reduction is included in the same budget as UNC-Chapel Hill’s new School of Civic Life and Leadership. The General Assembly will provide a total of $4 million to support the school’s development and initial faculty and staff hiring.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC's higher education reporter and 2023 Fletcher Fellow.