Local News

Bowles wants lawmakers to reconsider UNC tuition hike

Posted November 13, 2009 6:43 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2009 6:59 p.m. EST

— The University of North Carolina System president wants the General Assembly to reconsider a mandated tuition hike for all students in which the additional revenue would go to help with the state's budget woes.

As part of its budget deliberations this summer, legislators increased tuition rates for the 2010-11 school year for the UNC System's 13 universities by the lesser of 8 percent or $200. That money is set to go into the state's General Fund.

President Erskine Bowles wants state lawmakers, when they reconvene in May, to give tuition hikes back to the campuses.

"We need it," Bowles said Friday, at a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors.

Bowles said that because every campus has seen an increase in student financial aid – UNC-Chapel Hill, for example, has 23 percent more students in need – he wants at least 50 percent of new tuition revenues to be earmarked for financial aid and the remaining revenues going to campus needs.

"We'll have less money to deal with next year for greater demand," Bowles said.

Some lawmakers say it is too early to tell if the state would be able to afford to give up the revenue. Some projections are showing the state could face a $400 million to $500 million deficit.

"A lot of it's going to depend on where we are budget-wise, economically, in May, when we go back in session," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

Instead of the mandated hike by the General Assembly, Bowles wants to raise tuition for out-of-state students.

Bowles said that is because North Carolina taxpayers have built the schools, attracted faculty and maintained the campuses. He said UNC System schools are still a good value for out-of-state students, especially compared to private-school tutions.

"I don't feel that we have the same obligation to keep tuition as low as practical for out-of-state students as we do for in-state students," he said.

Meanwhile, each university is going through the system's normal tuition increase process, in which each school's Board of Trustees makes its recommendation to the Board of Governors.

The Board of Governors will vote in early 2010, and approved requests then go to state lawmakers for final approval

Among the proposed recommendations: North Carolina State University is recommending a $150 increase for in-state undergraduates (a 3.79 percent increase) and a $200 increase for out-of-state undergraduates (a 1.22 percent increase). Its Board of Trustees will vote next week on the proposal.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp is recommending a 5.2 percent increase for in-state students. UNC’s tuition task force determined out-of-state students should have the same percentage increase as in-state students.