Hundred dollar bills and coronavirus
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Martin Center column explores post-COVID-19 savings ideas for UNC

The Martin Center offers ideas for the University of North Carolina to save money after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Jenna A. Robinson and Sumantra Maitra released a new policy brief for the Martin Center describing some of the financial changes that universities can make to survive and thrive post-COVID. “Colleges must act now to cut unnecessary expenses while preserving core academic functions,” they say. …

… There will also be more pressure on the UNC budget, including the costs of new cleaning protocols, online teaching technology, and other measures to ensure student safety

But there are ways the system can cut spending without damaging its core functions. In “Higher Education After COVID-19: How universities can preserve core academic functions and reduce spending,” Robinson and Maitra suggest four areas for budget cuts: academic programs, administration, athletics, and facilities.

With sporting events unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels anytime soon, athletics is a natural place to make cuts. The Martin Center brief echoes recommendations from the Drake Group, including an immediate freeze on salaries, hiring, and bonuses, as well as a reduction in support staff.

At most UNC institutions, cuts to athletics departments were warranted even before the pandemic. Only two universities in the UNC system—North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill—come close to operating their athletics departments in the black. …

… The brief also recommends an immediate end to all new capital spending. The UNC system has already begun to move in this direction. At a meeting in April, UNC announced that all new construction on campuses will be suspended, which will save more than $150 million. That makes sense because, across the system, facilities are already woefully underused. …

… Robinson and Maitra also recommend significant cuts to administrative and professional staff, hiring freezes, and pay cuts to highly paid administrators. They note that “many of the services and programs provided by nonacademic personnel are nonessential. They only tangentially relate to academics and do not contribute to student success.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...