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Sunday, May 19, 2024

State budget to fund higher education projects at UNCW and new programs targeting grade-schoolers

The North Carolina budget approves massive funding for capital projects at UNCW and other initiatives benefitting K-12 students in the Cape Fear region. (Photo courtesy of Bradley Pearce/UNCW)

WILMINGTON — With the passing of North Carolina’s compromise budget, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington is set to benefit from numerous capital projects and employee benefits made possible by the state funds. 

“The budget has been long awaited and is certainly exciting news for UNCW and our employees,” Chancellor Jose Sartarelli said in a press release last week. “The budget benefits higher education in North Carolina in significant ways, including support for many UNC System initiatives, such as enrollment growth funding, building reserves, funding for salary increases and state benefits, and other items of critical importance to UNCW.”

The budget references raises for state employees over the next two years, and one-time, four-figure bonuses from federal money pots. 

“The budget’s investment in state employees, especially the dedicated faculty and staff at UNCW and other campuses, represents a positive step toward recognizing the value that university employees bring to their campuses, their communities and the State of North Carolina,” according to Sartarelli, who will retire in June. “The restoration of salary increases, combined with new recurring and one-time funding, will help UNCW continue thriving now and in the future.”

UNCW’s net appropriation from the state general fund for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which began in July, is around $148 million. That’s up two million from the annual funding prescribed in the most recent state budget signed in 2019. 

In addition, more than $73 million for project funding has been approved. The budget fully greenlights the $56 million renovation and expansion of Randall Library, numerous safety improvements and a nearly $10 million renovation of the Center for Marine Science building. 

Other highlights in the budget include: 

$12.75 million for research within the UNC system on the ridding of GenX: The money will go to the North Carolina Collaboratory to continue work at universities, including UNCW, to study GenX and other PFAS. At least $10 million will go to developing technology to filter and mitigate the presence of the chemicals in drinking water (the budget also states the Collaboratory “shall utilize” UNCW faculty and staff in project management in this effort).  

$994,000 to plan a new facility for Isaac Bear Early College High School at UNCW as the partner institution of higher education: The funding is contingent upon the university and New Hanover County Schools reaching an agreement on the site location and their own funding sources, with a deadline of June 30, 2022. Currently, the school is housed in modular units. This funding does not cover construction costs. According to district spokesperson Russell Clark: “At this time, there is no agreement expected between UNCW and NHCS for planning purposes.”

More items in the budget relevant to New Hanover County Schools and education: 

$500,000 to provide a directed grant to Child Development Center, Inc.: a nonprofit in New Hanover County that provides services to preschool age children with special needs.

Grant of $70,000 to Communities in Schools of Cape Fear: The nonprofit’s executive director Louise Hicks said the money is immediately being put to work through its school-based student support specialists. Based in 15 high-need schools across New Hanover and Pender counties, the professionals provide academic and behavioral support to referred students. CIS is expanding to five more schools this January.

“We are extremely grateful to have been included,” Hicks added.

$4 million for capital improvements at SEATech: The funds will support the onsite expansion of the career and technical programs, including residential and commercial construction, business and information technology.

$583,500 to establish a two-year pilot program with Cape Fear Community College, New Hanover County Schools, and Pender County Schools: The partnership will expose students in 7th through 9th grades from underperforming schools and underserved populations to career training opportunities. The funds provide for summer programming and four two-year, time-limited career liaison positions.

Correction: This story was updated to state funding for the Isaac Bear facility does not include construction costs.

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