UNC president recommends smaller tuition increases
Posted January 25, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — University of North Carolina President Tom Ross has called for tuition increases at the system's 16 university campuses to average 8.8 percent next year, according to a memo released Wednesday.
Ross is expected to recommend the increases, which average $470 for in-state undergraduates, to the UNC Board of Governors at the board's Feb. 10 meeting.
Several campuses have asked to raise tuition far above a 6.5 percent annual cap the Board of Governors installed several years ago. UNC-Chapel Hill, for example, 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.
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 eliminate staff positions and programs.
The tuition proposals prompted a backlash from longtime UNC President Bill Friday and at least 20 former members of the Board of Governors. The group urged the current board to reject the hefty increases, citing 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.
"There is no doubt in my mind that every UNC campus can demonstrate real and pressing needs for increased funding," Ross said in memo to current board members, noting that the state budget cut the UNC system's budget by $414 million in the past year.
"Cuts of that magnitude simply cannot be offset by tuition alone."
He approved the requests of the nine UNC campuses seeking to raise tuition by less than 10 percent, but he pared back the other seven so they also were under that threshold.
Under his recommendations, in-state undergraduate tuition at UNC-Chapel Hill would go up by 9.9 percent next year, to $7,500, while N.C. State would increase by 9.8 percent, to $7,644.
Ross said his tuition recommendations would generate $70 million in total revenue for the campuses, which would make up about 17 percent of last year's state cuts.
"This modest infusion of new revenues will help to stabilize campus operations and give our campuses limited relief from years of continuous budget cuts," he said.
N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said Ross' recommended increase would produce $7.5 million for his campus. That compares with $67 million in state cuts last year, he said.
"It's certainly not an attempt to put all of these budgetary demands on the backs of students, but it certainly is a reflection of our desire and need, frankly, to keep the university strong," Woodson said of plans to raise tuition.
Some students don't see it the same way, though.
"I don't think we should get any more increases because I don't think we're getting any more benefit for the money," said Zac Cawthorn, a junior at N.C. State.
He also turned aside plans laid out by some campuses to stretch out large increases over five years. Instead, he proposed limiting requests to two years.
"A two-year plan would better enable families and students to plan and give our campuses an opportunity to stabilize for the future," he said. "I believe we should wait, however, to see what additional savings can be realized through efficiencies, consolidations and collaborations and whether or not additional state resources become available before considering additional increases."
The increases he recommended for 2013-14 would average 4.2 percent, or $248. They would range from a low of no increase at Fayetteville State University to a high of 8.2 percent at the UNC School of the Arts.
"I believe that these recommendations balance the campuses’ demonstrated need for increased resources with the limited ability of many students and families to sustain further tuition increases in this tough economy," he said.