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Tuition increases possible for UNC-system schools

UNC System President Erskine Bowles says he expects campuses will ask for tuition increases this year to help with budget cuts.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of North Carolina Board of Governors unanimously approved a $3 billion budget Friday that asks for a 5.8 percent – or $168 million – increase over the previous spending plan.

All but about $50 million would go toward salaries, student financial aid and public safety initiatives at the system's 16 universities, officials said Thursday.

The increase is the lowest in 20 years – the board's finance committee trimmed campus requests for other items from almost $200 million because the sluggish economy is reducing state revenues.

Chancellors at the various campuses have already cut the current year's budgets by 4 percent, and officials have told them to work toward a 5 percent cut next year. The decisions on where to make cuts are left to each campus.

The question now looming is whether budget cuts will mean tuition increases.

The board decided not to raise tuition last year, but UNC System President Erskine Bowles said he expects campuses will ask for an increase now.

"I expect to get requests, from some campuses, up to a 6.5 percent tuition increase. And I have no question they can use the money," Bowles said. "But I want to make sure they can justify it, and I want to make sure that the students and their families can afford it."

North Carolina State University plans to as its Board of Trustees next week for a 3.6 percent increase.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Board of Trustees will also consider an increase. It's unclear how much, though, because a final recommendation hasn't been made.

"We'll have to take a very hard and pragmatic look at it," said UNC Board Chairman Roger Perry.

The state, however, does have an annual tuition cap of 6.5 percent that was put in place in 2006 as a way to help families plan for higher-education costs.

If tuition does increase, universities are required to set aside 25 percent of it for financial aid.

Still, students, like UNC freshman Emily Ronco who pays out-of-state tuition, say they are concerned, especially with the declining economy.

"With much more of a tuition increase, I just don't know how realistic it is for me to stay," Ronco said.


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