Local News

UNC Task Force To Tackle Issue Of Tuition Rates

Posted August 11, 2005 6:15 a.m. EDT

— It was a battle over the cost of college that threatened to derail the state budget agreement. Now, the UNC Board of Governors will rely on a new task force to take a closer look at how state universities set tuition.

When UNC boosters sought ways to pump up pay for top faculty, they lobbied lawmakers to give the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University power to set their own tuition rates.

Critics argued the change would drive up student costs and destroy the university system.

"It was intense and there were strong feelings on both sides," said UNC Board of Governors Chairman Brad Wilson.

The bill died, but not the sentiment.

Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, a Democrat, supported the change.

"I believe you have to review the condition, the need, and what is right and best for the school," he said.

On Thursday, Wilson named a tuition task force to find a compromise.

"It's a recognition that this conversation has taken place in the General Assembly and we've heard them and we understand it's important," Wilson said.

Instead of turning over total tuition freedom to each campus, the task force will look for ways to create limited windows of opportunity.

For example, the group could take the median tuition rate at comparable universities and then give state campuses the freedom to raise rates up to the 25th percentile.

"I think we're hoping that we can come out of this with a model that will give us more specific parameters, which will mean campuses have a lot more latitude," said the task force's co-chair, Hannah Gage.

Leaders hope latitude and a lot more creative thought will help the campuses and the system.

The task force will also explore ways to expand financial aid for middle-income families.

The committee report is due in October.