Athletes Dominate Costly UNC System Tuition Break

Carolina is the one large campus where academic scholarships outnumber athletic ones.

A legislative provision to bring more out-of-state talent into the UNC System will do that, but most of the talent will shine on athletics fields and courts, rather than in the classrooms of the 16-member UNC System campuses.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported this week that of 456 out-of-state scholarship students expected to attend state institutions this fall, more than two-thirds will receive athletic scholarships. In a provision added to the state budget last fall, full scholarship recipients from outside the state are considered in-state for tuition purposes. The idea is to offset the impact on athletics booster groups and scholarship benefactors of tuition increases at many campuses.

But the newspaper found that athletes far outnumber academic scholars benefiting from the new law and that the cost to the state’s taxpayers of the additional students will be $5.2 million in the first year, $3.4 million of it for athletes, according to UNC System estimates. The paper said the cost could be more than $20 million a year four years from now.

The situation at Carolina is the reverse, according to The N&O‘s research. Sixty-one out of 100 scholarships awarded to out-of-state students for fall 2006 are for academic merit.

Jerry Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management who is leaving UNC this month to work at the University of Southern California, pointed out that Carolina is the one large campus where academic scholarships outnumber athletic ones.

“At UNC-Chapel Hill, in fact, student-athletes are not the majority of the beneficiaries of the scholarship provision,” he said. “I don’t dispute the [News & Observer‘s] contention about the [UNC System].”

At other state schools, athletic scholarships for out-of-state students outnumber academic scholarships three to one. At Appalachian State, East Carolina, N.C. Central, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington and Western Carolina in particular, out-of-state athletes receiving scholarships outnumber academic award winners 199 to 16.

The new provision is in House and Senate versions of the state budget that was passed recently; approval is pending on the final budget. The provision was approved in September by the UNC trustees. It also had the support of Carolina administrators and of Citizens for Higher Education, a political action committee organized by a group of UNC supporters. But the UNC System Board of Governors, former UNC System President Molly Broad and former UNC System President William Friday ’48 (LLB) were opposed – as is current UNC System President Erskine Bowles ’67.

And it could be overturned. Rep. George Cleveland, from Jacksonville, has sponsored a bill to repeal the new law.

In The N&O article, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand ’61 defended the provision, saying it will support women’s and minor sports at smaller schools.

“How important was Mia Hamm to the University?” Rand said. “You can’t calculate that.”

One public concern over the law is that the increase in out-of-state students (the scholarship students won’t count in the UNC System-mandated 18 percent cap on out-of-state admissions) will deny slots to in-state students. Administrators say that is not true, that the number of in-staters admitted will not change.

Lucido said that the law ensures that in-state admissions at Chapel Hill never can fall below a threshold of about 3,100 freshmen, based on the fall 2005 enrollment figure. Out-of-state scholarship recipients now count toward that number, but Lucido said in-state admissions will continue to increase, not decrease.

Still, the N.C. School Boards Association has called for the law to be repealed on the grounds that any out-of-state student is taking a seat from a potential in-state student.

“Our first and primary goal was to protect our slots for our own students,” association President Jack Cherry told the newspaper.

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