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UNC head on HB2 law: Colleges can't run without federal funds

The University of North Carolina system board of governors met behind closed doors for almost three hours Tuesday evening before addressing the media.

UNC President Margaret Spellings and board of governors chairman Lou Bissette both called the situation they're in frustrating.

The university system is in the middle of the legal battle between the state and federal governments and could lose more than $1.4 billion in federal funding. Spellings told reporters she is glad the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice didn't specifically say funding is at stake, but acknowledged the board is discussing the possibility.

"The board and I are committed and clear we can't operate this place without federal funding," Spellings said.

When asked about any contingency plan if funding is cut, however, Spellings declined to discuss theoretical questions.

Students and Mecklenburg County leaders are reacting to the possibility of the university system losing federal funding.

"Obviously, the quality of education would definitely go down,” said Connor Sturgis, a student at UNC Chapel Hill. Sturgis is opposed to HB2.

State leaders are waiting for the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice Monday to play out. Some Democratic state senators from Mecklenburg County said they are confident the state will lose in federal court and worry about the impact of HB2 in the meantime.

“If that money is lost, North Carolina no longer has a world class university system. Full stop, point blank,” said Sen. Jeff Jackson.

“I’m devastated, having been in education for 30 years,” Sen. Joyce Waddell told Channel 9. “I can see the impact it would have on our education system.”

North Carolina’s 10 Republican members in Congress are trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. They sent a letter to the secretary of the Department of Education that reads in part, “We strongly believe that any move to withhold federal funding from North Carolina is without legal merit and an unprecedented overreach by the federal government.“

The 10 members who signed the letter also requested a response to ensure that isn’t the case by Friday.

Some students Channel 9 spoke to agree with the GOP stance and not only support the controversial new law, but support Gov. Pat McCrory’s efforts to keep it in place.

“He’s standing up for what’s right,” said North Carolina State student Ryan Cavanagh.

The UNC president and board of governors chairman said their next step is working with their attorney.

“We have every interest in resolving this as soon as possible,” Spelling said.