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marinetech300.jpg Submitted by Ramon Herrera on Wed, 03/02/2011 - 10:17am.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's the crown jewel of Cape Fear Community College. The Marine Technology program has been around for more than 45 years, but now it's on the budget chopping block. But now the governor says she is not targeting the program... totally. Today we wanted to know why the Gov. Bev Perdue is targeting this program and less than $700,000 to cut a multi-billion-dollar budget gap. When Perdue made her budget proposal last month, the students and staff in the Marine Tech program were shocked to find they were on the chopping block. "Our graduates get jobs," department chair Jason Rogers said. "We have a 94 percent placement rate. Either students get jobs in industry or go on and continue their education. The average starting salary for our graduates is $48,000. I'll put that program up with just about any other two-year associate program in the state." Heather Stoker is a UNCW Marine Biology grad, who is now a CFCC Marine Technology student. Stoker says the Marine Tech program offers what others could not: hands-on experience that employers are looking for. "If you want a Marine Tech position or any position working with the Division of Marine Fisheries, you really need the experience that you get here," she said. Perdue's budget proposal says cutting funds for the program would save the state less than $700,000 a year. When we asked her office Tuesday why the governor is targeting the program, her Communications Director Chrissy Pearson told us, "That program is absolutely not targeted to be cut. It's only the supplemental funds that are slated to be cut, and that's the case for several other 'high cost' programs." Marine Technology department chair Jason Rogers says cutting that supplemental funding means an end to the program's work at sea, which would effectively put the much-desired hands-on experience in dry dock and sink the dreams of students like Stoker. "If I don't get to finish this program, you know, I really don't know. I'll just have to keep on looking," Stoker said. "The bad part about it is it will take me out of North Carolina." When we told the Pearson that the loss of supplemental funding would essentially end the program, she said she was not aware of that, but she acknowledged all the proposed cuts are hard.

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