Education

Former UNC system leaders opposed to tuition increases

Posted January 10, 2012 6:22 p.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2012 7:00 p.m. EST

— At least 20 former members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors are asking the current board to reject requests for hefty tuition increases at several campuses in the UNC system.

The group signed a three-page statement that was being sent to the board before it meets Thursday in Chapel Hill. The board isn't expected to vote on any tuition proposals until February, at the earliest.

UNC-Chapel Hill has proposed raising tuition by 40 percent over the next five years, while North Carolina State University wants to increase tuition by 9 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.

University officials say they need the added revenue to make up for deep cuts in state funding in recent years, which have forced them to cut staff and programs.

Lillington attorney William Johnson, who served on the Board of Governors for nearly 20 years and was chairman from 1976 to 1980, said Tuesday that he believes the current board's responsibility is to keep tuition as low as possible.

In the statement to the Board of Governors, Johnson cites the North Carolina constitution's mandate that "the benefits of the University of North Carolina ... be extended as far as practicable ... to the people of the state free of expense."

"Those people who coined those words had the foresight and the vision to recognize the importance of a system of higher education that would be made, hopefully, available to all our boys and girls," he said.

He has the support of 20 former Board of Governors members, and he said he expects more to join the effort. Longtime UNC President Bill Friday also signed the statement.

Johnson said he would rather see campuses cut costs and keep the price of education down than increase the cost and pass that burden to students and their families.

"What I am suggesting is that the Board of Governors and other persons who have responsibility in this area need to be sure that we are not financing programs that don't produce an appropriate return to the university," he said.

He also called on the public to pressure the General Assembly to properly fund the UNC system so that large tuition increases wouldn't be necessary.