UNC system begins tuition discussions

Posted November 10, 2011

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— Leaders of public universities in North Carolina on Thursday began a months-long process to decide whether students will pay more tuition in the coming year.

The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system met to begin discussions on possibly allowing exceptions to a 6.5 percent cap on annual tuition and fee increases, which was put in place several years ago.

"We need to be sure above all else that we have access and affordability, but (that) we also have excellence," UNC President Tom Ross said.

The leaders of some universities have indicated they might seek tuition hikes above the cap. Talk of tuition increases comes after the 17-campus system lost $414 million, or 15.6 percent, of its funding in the most recent state budget.

Some Board of Governors members said they needed to send a message to campuses as to whether large tuition increases would be accepted.

"It's sort of disingenuous of this board to say, 'Yeah, we've opened it up, and you can catch up and all that,' if we are really not going to entertain their proposals," board member Peaches Blank said.

Other board members angrily pointed the finger at the General Assembly, saying lawmakers aren't fulfilling the state's obligation to support higher education.

"What if, for example, everybody came back and said, 'You know what, we are not raising (tuition) a nickel, and here is what it takes to maintain the quality, now you (lawmakers) deal with it,'" board member Fred Eshelman said.

Ross persuaded the board to hold off on taking any positions on hefty tuition increases until campuses can put together their formal proposals.

"We've got to do more analysis of this," he said. "We're a long way off from any decisions being made."

Students protest tuition hikes planned for UNC System Prospect of hefty tuition increases irks UNC system board

The Board of Governors isn't expected to vote on any tuition proposals until after February. All tuition increases must be approved by trustees of the individual schools, the Board of Governors and state lawmakers before taking effect.

Although UNC campuses have been squeezed by the state budget cuts – courses offerings are down and class sizes are up – Ross said tuition has never been seen as the primary source of funding for North Carolina universities.

"We have to make our case for an investment, and that's really what higher education is, it's an investment that the state makes in our future," he said. "We've had a very good and long history in North Carolina of state support, and I don't think the mentality to support the university is any different now than it's always been."

A special UNC-Chapel Hill task force is expected to vote sometime in November on a proposal to raise tuition and fees for in-state students by up to $2,800, which would be a 40 percent increase. The increase would likely be spread over a few years.

"You are hearing talk of going above the 6.5 percent, and I think that's probably going to be necessary," Chancellor Holden Thorp said.

Students said they hope Thorp and other UNC officials think twice before implementing a major tuition increase.

"I hope they really think about what's going on and if it's necessary," sophomore Diana Castana said.

"It's a dramatic change that I think too many students aren't aware of," junior David Freifeld said.

North Carolina State University officials are considering adding $330 to in-state undergraduate tuition – a 6.4 percent increase – but could go higher if given approval, officials said.

"If the state is not able to fund higher education the way they have in the past, we are going to look at the balance between state funding and student funding," N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said.

North Carolina Central University will likely issue its tuition proposal in December.

Appalachian State University student Atul Bhula, the student representative on the Board of Governors, said he's seeing more students quit school and go to work to save money to come back, because they can no longer get the financial aid they need.

"I'm afraid that if they do raise tuition by a certain amount, then we are going to see a lot more students dropping out," said Bhula, president of the UNC Association of Student Governments.

The Board of Governors also is looking at cutting costs by eliminating redundant programs at various campuses. Jim Woodward, the retired chancellor of UNC-Charlotte, examined the issue in recent months and told the board Thursday that program duplication isn't a problem for the UNC system.

At least a quarter of the money generated by tuition increases would be used for financial aid.

Campuses have added more programs than they have discontinued over the past decade, Woodward said, but many of the new fields are tied to economic development.

He advised the board to look at expanding online programs that would allow students on one UNC campus to take courses on another. He also said the UNC system needs to review the mission of each campus, which hasn't been done in 20 years.


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  • kirtl Nov 11, 2011

    Low costs/tuition and academically competitive do not go together. You can either adhere to the state constitution and make it low cost or you can be competitive with universities across the country.

  • Plenty Coups Nov 10, 2011

    nighttrain- Do you really believe your nonsense? Really?

    "Better roads could be built privately"

    Sure they could. Name one successful country with private roads.

    "Thank goodness the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and many inventors of the 19th century had government sponsorship...oh wait they didn't"

    LOL. The military has poured billions upon billions into research for all aspects of flight as well as providing a marketplace to buy these inventions. You can thank the internet you are currently on as a govt. invention. From rockets to teflon to pharaceutical drugs, govt. supported inventions have been a major factor. Even the inventions that weren't connected to the govt. can trace a safe conducive environment that allowed that invention to take place.

  • kmanc4s Nov 10, 2011

    Why doesn't the UNC System and the State Legislature declare our State University System no longer the realm of the average NC citizen, quit using all of our tax money to support it and make it only for the wealthy? It sounds ridiculous, but that's where it's headed.

  • AppState86 Nov 10, 2011

    No Contest: "When is the BIG BUSINESS of education going to be examined, analyzed and questioned like the rest of big business in America?"

    Right! According to the College Board, the average cost for tuition and fees at four-year public institutions has increased nearly 51% over the last 10 years (after adjusting for inflation), and these costs will almost certainly continue to rise.

  • AppState86 Nov 10, 2011

    Haggis Basher: "Sports is self financing. If anything its a net adder to the Schools (well perhaps not with UNC and now Penn State Football!)"


    How many Division I athletics departments operate in the black?
    Less than 7 percent of Division I athletics programs had positive net revenue between 2004 and 2010. In the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), only 22 of 120 schools showed positive net revenue for the 2010 fiscal year, eight more than in 2009.

  • carrboroyouth Nov 10, 2011

    Professors, maintenance, food, housing, labs, equipment, renovations, electricity, libraries, etc... -lovethesouth

    Food and housing!?! No ma'am or sir, my meal plan is over $1000 and my housing is more than twice that. Tuition does NOT cover those things, nor does it cover the student fees, which is about $900.

  • nighttrain2010 Nov 10, 2011

    What are your thoughts on Libertarian Socialism? - godnessgracious2

    Not sure how one can mesh the concept of anti-capitalism with freedom and voluntary action but I'll look at it a little more in depth

  • mountainlover Nov 10, 2011

    haggis basher: Sorry, I cannot provide the link. I did not read it on the internet. I read it on printed material (my step-son is a CPA) and I do not have that material in front of me. When I said "no taxes," I was talking about federal income taxes. Yes, everyone pays sales tax and gas tax; however, I believe that everyone should also pay some federal income tax. If you do not believe that, then you have a right to your opinion. I also have a right to mine. Incidentially, I would rollback the Bush tax cuts and make the wealthy pay more, because most would be unaffected. However, I personally do not believe that ANYONE should not have to pay some FEDERAL income tax. The amount for some might be $25 or $50 but I am not buying -0-.

  • lovethesouth1 Nov 10, 2011

    Ma'am, with all due respect, your child can take out a loan just like any other grown child can. There's no reason for him or her to drop out, just because the parent can not pay. The different between your budget and any increase will be much less of a loan than what many others have taken out.

  • haggis basher Nov 10, 2011

    ">>research and development

    Thank goodness the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and many inventors of the 19th century had government sponsorship...oh wait they didn't...."

    LOL, almost all development in aircraft since the first flight was paid for by Gov. money and who did they sell their first aircraft to??