- Associated Press - Friday, April 15, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s public university board decided Friday to ask the General Assembly to allow two flagship campuses to begin borrowing $1 billion for up to 100 years instead of the current 30-year time limit.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors, meeting in Chapel Hill, voted to seek legislative approval for the extra-long financing term to take advantage of historically low interest rates. The General Assembly, which starts is annual session later this month, will be asked to allow North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill to sell the so-called century bonds to investors.

Board member Champ Mitchell of New Bern said he wants lawmakers or the UNC board to prevent the bonds from being repaid through higher tuition or fees. He said he thinks the bonds should be limited to a few uses like maintaining buildings.

“As with many powerful instruments, they could be abused in powerful ways,” Mitchell said. But as a Chapel Hill graduate, “it embarrasses me to walk around the two main quadrangles at that university and see beautiful Georgian buildings, on the exterior, boarded up because we don’t have the money to repair and renovate them.”

N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill want the authority to borrow up to $500 million each for up to a century. Universities need more than $1.3 billion to repair and renovate campus buildings, board member Harry L. Smith Jr. said.

Voters last month approved borrowing a $2 billion bond for state projects, with nearly $1 billion of that going to university campuses. That will pay for construction projects on 14 campuses - many targeting the science, engineering and math fields - and renovations at the UNC system’s three other campuses.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio


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