In April 2000, UNC-TV - North Carolina's statewide broadcasting system - presented the public with an eye-opening look at the crowded conditions in the state's 16-campus university system.
As the program reported, campuses through the UNC system were holding classes in outmoded, deteriorating, and even potentially hazardous buildings, with problems ranging from inadequate storage space to leaky roofs and poor ventilation. More than 800 university buildings statewide need significant repairs or modernization, with the greatest deficiencies found in science and technology labs. These building deficiencies were further impacted by a predicted increase of 50,000 students by 2008.
In 1999, a university facilities study undertaken by an independent higher education consultant, Eva Klein, prompted university officials to adopt a 10-year, $6.9 billion capital plan covering repair and renovation needs system-wide.
The "Klein Report" proposed that UNC's capital needs be financed through increased funding from the General Assembly, coupled with new university-based funding, private-sector development, and increased private giving. In addition, Klein concluded that the state's traditional pay-as-you-go approach to capital funding would fall far short of the amount needed to repair, modernize, and expand UNC facilities and that alternative financing - principally bond financing - was needed to effectively implement the 10-year capital plan.
The documentary helped raise the public's awareness just in time to vote on the state's $3.1-billion Higher Education Improvement Bonds. On Nov. 7, 2000, more than 73 percent said "Yes" to the future of the state's university and community college system. Passage of the issue makes possible financing for upgrades, renovations, modernizations, and new buildings at 300 facilities across North Carolina. The bonds will provide $2.5 billion for repair, renovation, and construction of classrooms, science and technology labs, and dorms at all 16 UNC campuses, and will finance federally mandated upgrades at UNC-TV.
In total, officials this year will begin designing and building more than 90 projects across the system.