The North Carolina state budget that was approved by the General Assembly Aug. 2 provides funding for three of UNC Charlotte’s top priorities for the recent legislative session: a salary increase for SPA staff, continued enrollment growth funding, and financial support for the University’s important Data Science and Business Analytics initiative.
The budget provides for $1,000 raises for staff members subject to the State Personnel Act (SPA). This is only the second state-appropriated pay raise for SPA employees since 2009; in 2012, the General Assembly provided a 1.2 percent increase.
No raises were provided for staff exempt from the State Personnel Act (EPA) or faculty, but Chancellor Philip Dubois is determining whether available campus funds will permit similar raises to be provided to these employee groups.
“We are grateful to the legislature for taking this first step in compensating our employees,” Dubois said. “We hope to continue to work together to meet the critical need for future additional, sustained salary increases for all employees in order for UNC Charlotte to be able to retain and compete for top talent.
We also appreciate the provision of additional bonus leave to eligible employees, to be effective September 1 for permanent leave-earning employees.”
The budget also increases tuition waivers for employees taking university courses from two to three, providing an expanded benefit for employees who wish to continue their educations at UNC Charlotte.
The budget provides $4.9 million in enrollment growth funding to UNC Charlotte. UNC Charlotte is the UNC system’s fastest growing campus, accounting for 48 percent of the entire growth in the 17-campus UNC system since 2008. Enrollment growth funding provides operating support associated with increases in the student population. UNC Charlotte expects to enroll up to 27,300 students this fall, an increase of 800 students from 2013.
The Data Science and Business Analytics (DSBA) initiative will share in $3 million budgeted to the UNC system for “game-changing research” at various campuses; UNC Charlotte’s portion of that money will be determined by the UNC Board of Governors upon the recommendation of President Tom Ross. Through DSBA, UNC Charlotte is leading an industry-university-state partnership, offering interdisciplinary academic programs to develop a new generation of data scientists, business analysts, and managers. DSBA has received significant private support from Charlotte-area businesses, including a $5 million investment in 2013 from Belk Inc.
“The legislature’s investment in the Big Data program is an acknowledgement of UNC Charlotte’s expertise in developing the talent and creating high-end jobs that will drive the Charlotte region’s economy,” said Dubois.
Dubois remains concerned about one long-time capital funding priority that is still unfulfilled – funds to begin planning for the construction of a new science building. “Burson Hall is our primary facility for fundamental laboratory courses in chemistry and physics needed by students in a wide variety of academic majors, including engineering." Dubois said. “Although we will be attempting some renovations in Burson to make limited improvements in the near term, it is no longer cost effective to attempt to make Burson into the kind of modern science facility that we need for the long term.
“We appreciate the legislature’s and Governor’s support of our growing campus and we look forward to working with them, the Board of Governors and UNC President Tom Ross to invest in higher education that spurs job growth for all North Carolinians.”