Fifty years after it was recognized as a university by the N.C. General Assembly, UNC Charlotte is the fastest-growing campus in the University of North Carolina system – and struggling to keep up with that growth.
Chancellor Phil Dubois says that’s why he is in Raleigh this week lobbying for enrollment funding and money for what he calls a badly needed science building.
Dubois hosted a dinner Tuesday night for area lawmakers, including the nine who are UNCC alums, and House Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain. Among the guests were UNC system President Tom Ross and John Fennebresque, a Charlotte lawyer and the chairman of the system’s Board of Governors.
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On Wednesday, Dubois was at the legislature to press support for his campus and “take the temperature” of lawmakers.
School officials are asking for $18 million to keep up with enrollment growth. UNCC accounts for 46 percent of the entire system’s growth over the past six years.
The school is also seeking $12.6 million in planning funds for a science building whose total cost is projected at $120 million. The current science building is 30 years old. As electrical and other systems have become outdated, demand has grown.
In a student body of more than 27,000, more than half the declared majors are in science or another discipline that requires lab work.
“It’s the single factor that could stop us from growing,” Dubois said. A new building, he added, “will mean we can prepare students for the world of modern science.”
Despite a makeover of the campus in recent years, Dubois said it’s been years since the legislature appropriated state money for capital improvements. Student fees and other revenue have paid for new dorms, parking lots and other buildings.
Dubois’ 10th anniversary as chancellor coincides with the 50th anniversary of the legislative vote that created the university in Charlotte. That vote was largely the result of efforts by Bonnie Cone, a one-time educator who lobbied lawmakers to convert Charlotte College into a state university.
“If she could get a university, certainly we can get a science building,” said Betty Doster, a special assistant to Dubois.