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Community colleges in ENC feeling different effects from funding change

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KINSTON, N.C. -

Community colleges across our state will lose about $20 million this year because of a change in how their funding is allocated.

Previously, North Carolina’s 58 community colleges received state funding based on the average enrollment for the past three years, or simply the previous year, if that's higher.

Now, it will be based on the average of just the past two years.

It’s a change that’s hitting some schools in the East particularly hard. Lenoir Community College in Kinston lost $725,000 this fiscal year.

"We're having to make our budget stretch a little bit farther than we have in prior years," says Deborah Sutton, vice president of administrative services at LCC.

Sutton says the decrease won't force them to cut classes or jobs this year, "but we're not able to offer additional programs or do any type of expansions that we might need to do,” she says.

But just across county lines, Pitt Community College President Dennis Massey says the new law hasn't impacted his school at all.

"We are having enrollment growth, so our state funding has increased substantially," Massey says.

PCC is one of only six community colleges in our state to experience enrollment growth last year, and with the new funding formula, more students means more money.

As for Gov. Pat McCrory's ultimate goal to determine funding more on programs that create good-paying jobs, and less on student numbers, Massey is all for it.

"We can put our emphasis, not just on quantity of what we do, but on the quality of what we do,” he says.

But Sutton worries it will be difficult to determine the “quality” of a student, "especially in a region like ours, where the job opportunities might not be as readily available as in other regions."

Legislators have set aside $4 million for some of the colleges hit hardest by this change. LCC will get $180,601 to soften the blow.

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