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Soaring UNC Tuition Could Open Door For Possible Legal Action

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of North Carolina system needs to rein in tuition increases and athletic programs and incorporate community colleges into its long-range planning, according to a report released Tuesday.

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research has studied the 16-campus UNC system for five years and found 11 areas for improvement, from tuition to governance.

"After 35 years of experience with a statewide system governing our 16 public universities, it's time for a tune-up. But it's a tune-up of the system that's needed -- not an overhaul," says Ran Coble, NCCPR director.

The most recent tuition increase at individual schools was approved by the UNC Board of Governors last year. Systemwide, undergraduate tuition for North Carolina residents jumped 71 percent between 1999 and 2004.

The NCPPR report said seven tuition increases in eight years could invite a lawsuit because state law requires public higher education be offered as cheaply as possible.

The study also suggested the legislature has failed to follow state law by not nominating enough candidates for the Board of Governors, especially female and minority candidates. As a result, the study concluded, lawmakers should give the power to appoint three-fourths of the 32 UNC system leaders to the governor.

Governors in 46 states already have that power, the study noted.

"There is still a great need for a statewide board governing all public universities -- a board focused on the university's three missions of teaching, research and public service and a university system that is helping meet state needs and solve state problems," Coble said.

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