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By: Trent McGee

East Carolina University Chancellor, Steve Ballard, recently held his second State of the University Address at Hendrix Theatre on the campus of ECU.  During a time when public universities across the nation are faced with difficult financial decisions as a result of the recent economic recession, Chancellor Ballard remains steadfast in his approach to continuing to provide the necessary leadership needed to move ECU into the future in “new ways.”  Chancellor Ballard understands that it is no secret that 2012 is shaping up to be North Carolina’s most difficult budget year on record.  In an effort to paint a clearer picture and assure those in attendance that ECU is not alone in the matter, the Chancellor made note to the fact that 40-plus states in our nation are weathering this same economic storm.  Heavily-populated states such as California and Illinois are also staring cuts to higher education right square in the face.  Though the recession is over, the “revenue crisis is not” and ECU faces state budget cuts anywhere from eight to 20 percent.  A 20 percent budget cut for ECU could result in a loss of as much as $60 million.  State funding makes up roughly $300 million of ECU’s $800 million budget.  Chancellor Ballard fears, that in the future, universities “will not have as much state support as they have enjoyed historically.”

The unfortunate reality of the situation is clear; staff reductions appear inescapable, salary cuts are looming, research equipment funds are currently frozen, and unit cutbacks are a must.  The availability of classes will be reduced, while class size and teaching loads, on average, will increase.  Having to enact these measures is seemingly unavoidable.  Chancellor Ballard went on to say, “We may have to ask each college and division to reduce their expenditures by nine to 12 percent.”   ECU takes great pride in being an “access institution,” but the Chancellor could not dance around the issue of tuition hikes, perhaps more than 20 percent.  In addition, the Chancellor said, “This will follow substantial increases in tuition and fees already approved by the Board of Governors.”  Chancellor Ballard quoted the infamous Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going...”  The plan to remain “mission driven” and continue forward, as one, in a tactical manner, is the foundation upon which Chancellor Ballard will exercise his leadership role. 

ECU’s past success of efficient budgeting, quality academic achievement and advancement, along with its invaluable partnerships with NC’s Community Colleges are the tools that Chancellor Ballard will carry with him as ECU approaches uncharted waters.  The core of a good leader is having a plan and being confident in those that surround you to remain proactive.  “There is great optimism and resolve for the future,” said Chancellor Ballard and he made sure to mention, not just ECU’s statewide recognition, but the national attention as well.  I myself left the State of the University Address feeling confident that my alma mater, East Carolina University, will maintain its reputation as being a proven leader in higher education.

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