More need, less funding squeezes financial aid in UNC system

Posted January 13, 2011

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— Thirteen campuses in the University of North Carolina system are seeking the maximum possible tuition increase to help offset state budget cuts, putting a larger strain on student financial aid programs.

Officials told the UNC Board of Governors on Thursday that a growing number of students are requesting financial aid because parents have lost jobs in recent months.

At the same time, some sources of aid money are drying up, officials said. For example, the balance in the state escheat fund – unclaimed property turned over to the State Treasurer's Office – dropped by 39 percent in the last four years.

The escheat fund provides more than $116 million a year for financial aid to students at North Carolina universities, which is about 70 percent of the UNC system's overall financial aid revenue. The State Treasurer's Office has projected that the fund won't be a reliable source of revenue for financial aid after 2013.

Last fall, Gov. Beverly Perdue instructed UNC officials to prepare for budget cuts of 5 to 10 percent. Former UNC President Erskine Bowles said that a 10 percent cut would amount to about $300 million and lead to larger classes and fewer instructors and class offerings.

In the past three years, the UNC system has dealt with $600 million in budget cuts, forcing campuses to lay off more than 900 people. All 16 of UNC's university campuses raised tuition last year to help offset the loss of state funding.

New UNC President Tom Ross said tuition will likely go up again this year so that the budget cuts don't harm the quality of education universities can offer.

"There may have to be some tuition increases," Ross said. "The key, I think, is to balance those increases with appropriate levels of financial aid that those students who can't afford to pay will be able to continue their education."

Tuition increases strain UNC's financial aid system Tuition increases strain UNC's financial aid system

Under UNC system rules, tuition increases are capped at 6.5 percent a year, although campuses can also generate revenue by raising student fees.

UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and Fayetteville State University are among the campuses seeking a maximum increase for the 2011-12 school year. North Carolina State University has requested a 6.2 percent increase, and North Carolina Central University is seeking a 5 percent increase.

"I feel like, every singe year, it's tuition increases, tuition increases," said Abby Crownshaw, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill. "We are working. We are studying. We are trying to do our best, but increasing tuition is not really helping."

The Board of Governors is expected to vote on the proposed increases in February.

Ross has said that he's prepared to tackle the budget problems and has urged state leaders to view education as an investment.

He has stopped short of calling for a tax increase or bond to keep tuition costs down and has said he needs time to learn the system before setting his priorities.

The 17-campus system, which educates approximately 200,000 students, receives 13 percent of the state budget.

Athletics panel proposed

Ross said he plans to form a committee to study best practices when it comes to student athletes. The commitee will be led by ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, but other members haven't been named.

The panel is in response to problems with academic misconduct at various UNC schools.

Fourteen players on the UNC-Chapel Hill football team missed at least one game last fall because of allegations of improper relationships with sports agents or academic misconduct. ECU also reported academic misconduct to the NCAA, but the sport involved hasn't been named.


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  • rlwieland Jan 14, 2011

    the system is so screwed up. The boys and girls at the top are blind to what needs to be done and will do whatever they can as long as it doesn't affect them.

  • Eduardo1 Jan 14, 2011

    I worked days, and went to college at night for 9 years. Lets get the students and families to pay the way. NO HARDSHIP CASES

  • 426X3 Jan 13, 2011

    Got an idea. Cut back on those 7 figure salaries for coaches.

  • YeaOh Jan 13, 2011

    Everything in the higher education system is way over inflated because of the amount of money available to students. Make across the board progressive % salary cuts as a start.

  • readme Jan 13, 2011

    The government needs to get out of the student loan business. If a bank won't loan to the same student at the same rate and terms, then probably it is a bad loan. I know that makes it harder maybe for some people to go to school, but that is called life. When people have to work harder or save more for their goals, they will do it. When you hand it to them on a spoon, the will take that instead.

  • gkgreene Jan 13, 2011

    Couple of ideas

    1) do not allow student fees to pay for athletic faciliites or similar.

    2) consolidate programs where fewer universities offer the same majors so less money needed for same type of laboratory equipment and may have some reduction in staffing if major was offered at one university versus three or four

    I wonder if out of state tuition actually covers all costs associated with that student - if not, it should.

  • FuckYouWRAL Jan 13, 2011

    "Education should teach how to learn, how to think, how to be inquisitive, how to deal with complexity." --2thec

    It should also teach them how not to look pompous while sticking their foot in their mouth.

  • whatelseisnew Jan 13, 2011

    "After all, the state constitution guarantees universities to be "free or at the lowest practical cost"."

    There is no free. Your statement about loans, consider this, if you get a loan, you can pay off that loan. If Government continues to pay for college, you will never pay that off. Which way do you think actually costs you less money. This State is deeply in debt and heading deeper all the time. At some point they will have to choose between Medicaid and Education, they will not be able to pay for both.

  • LovemyPirates Jan 13, 2011

    SaveEnergyMan - Full Professors on the University level (anywhere) would never teach 4-5 courses. They do other things that are important and contribute to academics and to student learning. The general public has no idea how Universities work nor do they value what they do. That is obvious from many of the posts. Education should do more than prepare for a specific job. Education should teach how to learn, how to think, how to be inquisitive, how to deal with complexity.

  • whatelseisnew Jan 13, 2011

    Anyone ever wonder why every year these systems that get money from the State also have to increase their tuition by a much larger percentage than the inflation rate? Consider this: What three things has Government thrown more and more money at in ever increasing amounts:

    That would be:
    Education Health Care and Housing.

    What three things increase in cost well beyond inflation rates each and every year?