UNC students protest proposed tuition hike

Posted February 11, 2011 9:45 a.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2011 6:54 p.m. EST

— About 20 students protested in Chapel Hill Friday as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors approved proposals to increase tuition and cut dozens of programs at public universities across the state in order to prepare for state budget cuts.

Administrators sought to cut programs and raise tuition after the governor instructed them to prepare for budget cuts of 5 to 10 percent. The state faces a budget shortfall estimated on Wednesday to be $2.7 billion.

The students, some from as far away as Appalachian State University, met with UNC system president Tom Ross, who said leaders are doing their best to keep college affordable in the face of state budget cuts.

"We are constantly trying to balance the need for educational excellence with trying to keep tuition as low as possible," Ross said, noting that tuition increases are never taken lightly.

A former UNC-Chapel Hill student said she had dropped out because she could no longer afford school.

The proposed tuition increases, ranging from 5 to 6.5 percent, must be approved by the General Assembly.

Thirteen campuses, including UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and Fayetteville State, sought the maximum allowed tuition increase of 6.5 percent. North Carolina State University asked for a 6.2 percent hike, and North Carolina Central University for a 5 percent raise.

The increases would add $313 to this year's undergraduate tuition of $4,800 at UNC-Chapel Hill and $170 to this year's tuition of $2,600 at North Carolina A&T State University.

Ross said, "I'm certainly sympathetic with their views that tuition has gone up a lot in the last several years, but I'm also of the firm view, belief, that the University of North Carolina has to be and has to continue to be one of the nation's leading, if not the leading public university."

Schools that decided to spread out special increases that kicked in last year will see double-digit increases this fall.

What is still unclear is if money from the tuition increases will be returned to the campuses. North Carolina lawmakers could decide to put that back into the state’s General Fund.

The Board of Governors also voted to cut 60 degree programs at universities across the system.

"Those programs are being eliminated in a way that won't damage students," Ross said. "Some of those are combined into other oppportunities for students."

In January, Ross ordered a review to identify programs that had low demand or were offered at too many schools throughout the system.

The Board also approved two new degrees – a bachelor of arts in journalism for business reporting at UNC-Chapel Hill and a masters in nano-engineering at NCA&T. As well, they gave formal approval to NCCU's B.A. in public administration that was created in 2004.