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Tuition Cap Idea Endorsed By UNC Panel

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A task force reviewing funding issues across the University of North Carolina system is supporting a call for a 6.5 percent cap on annual tuition increases at UNC's 16 campuses.

UNC students have seen tuition go up seven times in the past eight years, with increases ranging up to 13.5 percent. This year, tuition increased by 12 percent.

UNC President Erskine Bowles said a cap -- 6.5 percent represents the average annual increase over the past 34 years -- would make it easier for families to budget for tuition and would keep a college education as affordable as possible. The cap would apply only to tuition paid by in-state undergraduates and would remain in effect for four years.

The Task Force on Tuition Policy voted in favor of the plan Tuesday, and it will be presented to the UNC Board of Governors for final approval on Friday.

"What we're saying is we're only going to meet (education costs) up to X level, and unless the General Assembly meets it above that level, then we would have to look at higher forms of tuition," Bowles said. "We're counting on the General Assembly to meet that need for us."

The cap policy would put pressure on state lawmakers to produce a certain level of funding, but it is not a guarantee. If schools feel that funding is not there, they could apply to the Board of Governors for permission to raise tuition above the 6.5 percent cap.

"Based on calls I've received from people in the legislature, they certainly feel it puts pressure on them because some of them are less than happy with what we've designed," Bowles said.

He also plans to ask lawmakers to pay out $38 million to fully fund the state's need-based aid program, and he wants them to fund a two-year plan for faculty pay raises.

Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said a 6.5 percent cap is fair. Legislators don't want to shor change the UNC system, he said, but they also have other funding priorities and want to spend state revenues wisely.


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