New WCU Chancellor Says Ongoing State Budget Stalemate Could Hurt Enrollment

Jan 28, 2020

Western Carolina University chancellor Dr. Kelli Brown says North Carolina's ongoing state budget stalement will likely take a toll on the school's record enrollment numbers if it continues.  

Dr. Brown took over as chancellor of the school on July 1st of last year - the same day North Carolina's fiscal year starts and when a budget is due.  The spending plan passed by GOP leaders in the General Assembly was vetoed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper for a long list of reasons, most notably because it did not expand Medicaid as provided under the federal Affordable Care Act.  Fill-in spending bills have been passed since on items both sides agree on, but having no full state budget is already having an impact at the Cullowhee school according to Dr. Brown.  "Our faculty and staff have not had salary increases for a number of years," Brown said to BPR's Matt Bush.  "Once this stalemate is up, we'll be able to hopefully address faculty and staff salaries to be competitive."  The stalemate will drag on at least three more months, as the General Assembly is not due back in Raleigh until the end of April.  Negotiations haven't occurred between both sides, and GOP leaders in the Senate have not been able to override the governor's veto after House controversially did so last September.

Another area Brown says the lack of state budget could have an impact on is Western Carolina's enrollment.  The school has seen record enrollment numbers over the past decade, but Brown says that's likely to slow down without a state budget and the necessary funding it provides.  "Between 2017 and fall 2019 we've seen over 11-hundred new students," says Brown.  "We're really going to have to think about (keeping enrollment growth at that pace) because we don't want to bring students in and not be able to provide them the education and experiences they should be able to have at Western."

Brown sat down for a lengthy interview with BPR.  Other topics she addressed include her first impressions of the university and the Western North Carolina region, new residence halls on the Cullowhee campus and what will happen to older ones no longer in use, and the school's search for a new athletic director.  You can hear the full interview above.