Home News Archives General N.C. Voters Say Yes To Higher-Ed Bonds

N.C. Voters Say Yes To Higher-Ed Bonds

By a 3-to-1 margin, N.C. voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a record $3.1billion bond issue to build and renovate hundreds of buildings at public universities and community colleges.

With almost all precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 8, unofficial results showed 73 percent voted for the referendum and 27 percent voted against.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following information in italics and in the table were added by VGCC:

In the four-county area served by Vance-Granville Community College, the vote went as follows:


Vance County

Warren County

Granville County

Franklin County



















In Mecklenburg County, voters also favored the bonds by a 3-to-1 margin. Preliminary vote totals in surrounding counties showed the bonds won with 68 percent in Union County, 70 percent in Cabarrus and Lincoln counties, 73 percent in Catawba County and 71 percent in Gaston County.

The borrowing package, the largest in state history, will give $2.5 billion to the state’s 16 universities and $600 million to its 59 community colleges.

The money will help space-squeezed campuses prepare FOR 100 ,000 more students in the next decade and allow other campuses to make needed renovations. Every public college will benefit.

“The citizens of North Carolina really connect with higher education,” said University of North Carolina system President Molly Broad. “They really see the opportunity for their children and grandchildren. North Carolina is seen as a bellwether in public higher education, and the result of today’s vote will send a powerful signal across the nation.”

Locally, UNC Charlotte will get $179 million to build a new humanities building, a science and technology center, and five other academic buildings. Central Piedmont Community College will get $63.8 million for four new buildings, one addition and renovations on its six campuses.

“I’m thrilled,” said UNCC Chancellor Jim Woodward. “This tells me that the people of North Carolina understand that one of the great assets of this state is higher education. It tells me that the future is bright for North Carolina and for its colleges and universities.”

State Treasurer Harlan Boyles says the bonds won’t require a tax increase, though they will double the state’s debt. The state plans to pay off the bonds using tax money created by new business and population growth. The bonds will be issued over five years, with colleges seeing the first money in spring 2001, Boyles says.

Bond supporters spent more than $3 million in a four-month campaign to sway voters.

A barrage of ads warned that the space crunch could force campuses to turn away growing numbers of qualified students. Higher-education leaders traveled across the state promoting the bonds. And every campus launched a voter registration drive in an effort to send college students to the polls.

“It’s the most significant effort to pass a bond that I can remember,” said Leslie Bevacqua, director of the statewide campaign.

George Leef, director of a higher-education policy institute at the conservative John Locke Foundation, was one of the few critics of the bond. He argued that the bond makes tax increases more likely. He also questioned the need to expand the system, arguing that there is plenty of room at private institutions, out-of-state colleges and online courses.

On Tuesday, he said voters would come to regret their decision.

“Spending this huge amount on the inefficient, heavily subsidized government higher-education system won’t improve the state’s economy or create more `educational opportunity,'” he said. “It just means that more students will take their courses through the government’s institutions rather than through any of the many nongovernmental alternatives.”

Despite such concerns, voters made it clear they believe education is a priority.

“I know the schools really need the money,” said Anita Grier, 44, of Matthews. “My children are going to college in five years and I want those schools to be in good shape.”

The push for the bonds began after a consultant identified more than $7 billion in capital needs on university campuses.

Legislators voted in the spring to put the bond issue on the ballot, a year after rejecting a similar package because it wouldn’t have required voter approval.

The last time higher-education bonds were on the ballot was 1993. Voters by a slim majority approved two bond issues, one for community colleges and one for universities, totaling $560 million.

CPCC President Tony Zeiss said the bond ensures that North Carolina will remain competitive.

“We recognize the trust and the faith the voters put in us with this vote,” he said, “and we will do our best to see that the dollars are used wisely.”

Reach Michelle Crouch at (704) 358-5108 or mcrouch@charlotteobserver.com .