Local News

Bowles calls for tighter cap on tuition increases

Posted January 27, 2009 6:44 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2009 6:57 p.m. EST

— Noting the impact of the nationwide recession on family budgets, University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles on Tuesday called for slashing requests by the system's 16 campuses for in-state tuition increases by a third.

Under the proposal, in-state undergraduate tuition at UNC-Chapel Hill would go up $160, to $3,705, while tuition at North Carolina State University would increase by $93, to $3,860. Tuition at North Carolina Central University would go to $2,218, up $93, and Fayetteville State University tuition would go up by $79, to $1,826.

The proposal, which the UNC Board of Governors will discuss on Friday, would increase in-state tuition across the 16 campuses by an average of 2.8 percent, rather than the 3.8 percent the various chancellors requested.

Last year, tuition went up by an average of 1.2 percent.

Bowles asked the Board of Governors to allow chancellors to use at least 40 percent of the extra tuition revenue for financial aid, predicting that more families would seek help paying for college. The remainder of the money would be used at the discretion of each chancellor for expenses such as reducing class sizes, ensuring libraries and laboratories remain accessible and maintaining university buildings, he said.

The UNC system implemented a 6.5 percent cap on tuition increases several years ago to keep spiraling higher education costs in check so that it remained affordable to most families.

Bowles asked the Board of Governors in a memo to cut that cap to 4.5 percent.

"North Carolina families cannot afford a 6.5 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and fees. At the same time, we need additional resources and the flexibility to use those resources wisely in order to lessen the impact of this recession and related budget cuts on our university," he wrote.

To help erase a growing budget deficit, the state has pulled $150 million from the UNC system's annual appropriation. Bowles said those cuts damage the quality of education the system can offer, but he said he believes UNC can absorb 5 to 6 percent cuts for another 18 months to help the state get through its budget crisis.

"I am a team player, and because I understand the depths of this economic crisis, I have not whined or complained about the university having to bear our share of the pain. But cuts of this magnitude cannot continue permanently if we are to preserve the quality of education our students need and deserve," he wrote in the memo.