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State approves funding to meet demand for business degrees

Aeriel View of UNC Kenan-Flagler McColl and Kenan Buildings

The longtime goal of being able to accept more Carolina students into the Undergraduate Business Program took a huge step forward to becoming a reality on July 1, 2020.

The N.C. General Assembly passed a bill signed by Gov. Roy Cooper to provide $75 million in funding to expand and enhance the Business School campus.

“I am incredibly grateful for this support from the state,” says Doug Shackelford (BSBA ’80), dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “A new building will enable us to increase significantly the size of the Undergraduate Business Program and provide modernized, expanded facilities for all of our students, faculty and staff. It is a vote of confidence in our University and our Business School, and critical to our mission to prepare our students to be the next generation of leaders.”

The total $150 million project will include a new building, refit of the McColl Building and more parking.

“This has been a multiyear process involving many people here at the School and across the University, including the Chancellor, as well as many friends and donors outside the School, many of whom wish to remain anonymous,” says Shackelford. “It reflects decades of extraordinary contributions by our alumni and world-class teaching, research and service by our faculty and staff.”

To receive these public funds, UNC Kenan-Flagler must raise $75 million in private funding by June 30, 2022. “I am confident that we will raise the necessary funds over the next two years,” says Shackelford. “A significant number of donors have already stepped forward. We have received an $11 million gift from Steve and Jackie Bell and an additional eight-figure commitment from another generous donor.”

The bill also appropriated up to $45 million to the UNC School of Nursing to renovate Carrington Hall.

“We appreciate the important investment our state legislators and governor have made toward expanding Kenan-Flagler Business School and renovating our UNC School of Nursing,” says UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz.

“Demand for a business degree at Carolina far exceeds the available space and expansion will allow the school to increase the number of business professionals, alumni-created startups and jobs in North Carolina,” he says. “Likewise, much-needed renovations and safety improvements to our nation’s top-rated public School of Nursing will ensure those we entrust with keeping North Carolinians healthy can also learn and thrive in a safe environment.”

The need for a new building

Ever since the Business School was founded in 1919, student demand has grown and, in recent years, outpaced its ability to serve talented Carolina students who want to major in business. Today, UNC Kenan-Flagler is able to accept only half of its undergraduate applicants each year, despite their impressive qualifications. The new building will enable the School to increase enrollment in the Undergraduate Business Program by at least 50%.

The new building also will help alleviate other space challenges and benefit learning for students in the MBA, Master of Accounting and PhD programs. UNC Kenan-Flagler has approximately 1,000 Undergraduate Business, 1,440 MBA, 350 Master of Accounting and 70 PhD students.

“We are at full capacity,” said Shackelford. “During the last decade, we doubled our graduate enrollment. We’ve expanded into the basement and the attic, and don’t have enough classroom/study space or offices for faculty and staff. Staff are working in three locations, including rental space. This investment will enable us to undertake similar growth in our undergraduate program during this decade.”

The N.C. General Assembly made an initial $1 million investment in 2017 to support the selection of a design team and start building programming and design for the capital project.

Construction for the new building will take approximately two years and renovations to the McColl Building and Kenan Center will take an additional 12 months.

“It is truly remarkable that these funds came through in the bleakest of financial times.  Despite many challenges this year, since March alone we have received the Bells’ wonderful gift, a very encouraging opportunity at Executive Development, and now these funds for our new home. This amazing news gives us fresh hope for a very bright tomorrow for UNC Kenan-Flagler.”