UNC president says tuition increases will be limited
Posted January 12, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said Thursday that tuition increases at the system's 16 university campuses will be less than 10 percent, far below what some campuses have requested.
Ross said he would forward his formal recommendations to the UNC Board of Governors in a few weeks. The board is expected to begin voting on proposed tuition increases next month.
UNC-Chapel Hill has proposed raising tuition by 40 percent over the next five years, while North Carolina State University wants to increase tuition and fees by 10.4 percent next year and more in subsequent years. East Carolina University, North Carolina Central University and other campuses are also seeking increases in excess of a 6.5 percent cap put in place several years ago.
Officials at the various schools say they need the added tuition revenue to make up for deep cuts in state funding in recent years, which have forced them to cut staff and programs.
Ross said he also would limit campuses to two-year increases instead of the five-year programs some have requested.
"It is about a balance between low tuition and high quality, maintaining excellence,” he said.
The tuition proposals have prompted a backlash from longtime UNC President Bill Friday and at least 20 former members of the Board of Governors. The group signed a three-page statement urging the current board to reject the hefty increases.
They cited the state constitution, which calls for keeping tuition as low as possible so the cost of higher education doesn't prevent people from pursuing a degree.
Friday noted that UNC campuses requested a tuition increase only once during his 30 years as president, and he said schools should make the necessary cuts to staff and programs to avoid having to raise tuition.
Ross said he respects the former board members' position, but he said the UNC system cannot afford to sacrifice the quality of education its campuses provide.
"They care deeply about the university, and I think what their letter says is, 'We don’t want you to go over the 6.5 percent cap.' They’d prefer that they not increase tuition at all, but I think that they understand that it may be necessary," he said.
He said the UNC system also needs to focus on cutting inefficiencies, raising private money and working with lawmakers for state funding.
N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said his administrators have been forced to hire temporary faculty to handle growing enrollment and to fill the gaps for professors who have been hired away by other universities.
"We are losing the capacity to be the world-class scholars and innovators that this state has demanded of us," Woodson told the Board of Governors. "This (proposed increase) is not putting on the backs of students the cost of higher education. We would still have one of the lowest student-based investment systems in the country.”
Chancellor Anne Ponder of UNC-Asheville agreed, telling the board that raising tuition "is critical to serve our students and fulfill our mission."
UNC-Asheville proposed the largest increase for 2012-13 at 13.5 percent. Other campuses that proposed increases of larger than 10 percent included UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, UNC-Wilmington and Winston-Salem State University.
Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the Board of Governors, said she hopes Ross can forge a compromise that will provide campuses with needed funds without taking too much of a financial bite out of current and prospective students and their families.
"Tuition is always difficult, and it should be. It should not be easy to raise tuition,” Gage said.
A number of students attended the board meeting to protest the tuition proposals, and some said they were glad that Ross planned to keep the increases below 10 percent.
"We were pleasantly surprised. We thought it would be more along the lines of 20 percent,” said Vera Parra, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.