ZOMG!!! IT’s the end of everything we know!!!

Well, it is if you’ve been ensconced in the ivory tower of academia and haven’t read the news for, oh, the last 3 years. But according to UNC System President Erskine Bowles, proposed cuts to the UNC budget “would destroy the economic and social future of the state. Among other things, they would force the system to eliminate about 1,700 jobs, about 1,000 of them filled and most of those faculty positions. It also would force the 16 universities in the system to slash 6,300 class sections, increasing class sizes and making it harder for students to get classes they need and graduate on time.

I note that we’re taking the time-honored tactic of cutting things guaranteed to cause the public to react with outrage, rather than cutting administrative positions, travel, office supplies and things that can be cut without as much damage. That should surprise no one.

But it’s more important to note that the state of NC is looking to close a budget hole estimated to be between $800 million and $1 billion in the proposed $19 billion budget. That amount is (roughly) in the 4-5% range. The UNC System is being asked to take a cut from their $7.4 billion budget that is (again roughly) in the 0.7- 2.4% range. That is not only a lot smaller cut, percentage-wise, but means that other things that the state does, such as roads and police protection, will face heavier cuts so the academics can keep their personal playgrounds intact.

Being a graduate of one of the UNC System schools, I understand the value of an education and am appreciative of my opportunity to get one, funded in part by the taxpayers. One of the things I gained in that education was an appreciation of the concept that “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Good managers understand this, and they know that there are always trade offs in budgeting. If I want more of A, then I must accept less of B, C and D. They understand that when times are good, expansion is possible, but that when times are hard, contraction often becomes necessary for survival.

It would seem that Mr. Bowles may not be the best manager we could have hired.

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