UNC president sees no in-state tuition increases in 2014
Posted August 8, 2013
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Undergraduate students enrolled at North Carolina's 16 public universities a year from now can expect a reprieve from a decade of steady tuition increases, University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said Thursday.
Ross told members of the university system's Board of Governors that he will recommend no tuition increases for undergraduate state residents heading into the 2014-15 academic year. In-state students paid an average of 9 percent more in tuition in the academic year that ended in May. Tuition increased by an average 4 percent for the school year beginning this month.
In-state students are paying 90 percent more in tuition and fees than a decade ago.
"I think it's time for us to step back and not increase tuition," Ross said. "It's going to be a struggle because we received another budget cut this year, but we have to figure out how we can be more efficient and how we can absorb these cuts."
He said he has had lengthy discussions about the changes with campus chancellors.
The tuition freeze won't be finalized until February, but the idea was received well by some members of the Board of Governors, which saw 15 new members sworn in Thursday.
"It's the right time to hit the pause button, and I think it's really important that we get this out early so that the campuses can spend the next six months planning," said board member Hannah Gage, of Wilmington.
Ross spoke two weeks after the General Assembly passed a two-year state budget that allocated the UNC system $126.5 million less than what was projected as needed to maintain last year's operating levels, adjusted for inflation.
Most of the cuts that will be required as a result will be determined by UNC's administrative offices and campus leaders. The cuts are on top of budget reductions of about $400 million approved two years ago.
"(It) is going to be tough, but given the reduction magnitude over the last few years, it’s better than we expected," said Charles Perusse, chief operating officer for the UNC system.
Perusse said most cuts will be in administration and operations, but there would be some impact on instruction as well.
The UNC system receives about $2.6 billion of its roughly $9 billion budget directly from the state.
"We did not receive any new investment. What we did receive was language in the Senate that gave the board some flexibility to use resources already available to any university as we begin to address the strategic plan," Ross said.
The universities need time to absorb the new cuts and adjust to a clear message from lawmakers to improve operating efficiency, he said.
"We need to prove that we can do the cut part of this – the efficiency side of this – and then we need to continue to make our case" for state funding in the future, he said.
The state legislature ordered tuition increases of 12 percent next year for out-of-state students attending UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Wilmington, North Carolina A&T State University and the UNC School of the Arts. Out-of-state tuition will rise 6 percent at most other campuses.
Tuition and fees vary dramatically by campus and, because of taxpayer support, are much lower for in-state students. That's largely due to a provision in the state constitution that requires higher-education costs to be low or free "as far as practicable." The average undergraduate tuition and fees for North Carolina residents has increased in the past decade from $3,290 to $6,100 in the coming academic year.
Tuition and fees at the state's public universities were the country's 10th lowest in 2012-13 and well below the national average of $8,655 in 2012-13, according to the College Board.
"I think we are a very affordable system compared to the rest of the country. That doesn't mean we're affordable for everyone, but it does mean comparatively we're affordable," Ross said.