As the up-bound Friday morning traffic moved at its usual pace on the eastern entrance to the campus, down the hill — covering both traffic lanes — came some 50 banner- and sign-bearing students headed for the chambers of the UNC System Board of Governors. Said to represent not just Carolina but other schools in the system, the students were determined to protest, loudly, one more time before the BOG took final action on proposed tuition increases for next fall.
The board’s decision nevertheless followed the recommendations of President Thomas Ross ’75 (JD). Carolina was granted a 9.6 percent hike in tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates, not the 11.4 percent it had asked for.
UNC’s in-state tuition will go up by $695. Including fees, the pricetag will rise from the current $7,008 to $7,683. For non-North Carolina residents, tuition and fees will go up 5.9 percent, from $26,833 to $28,435. All undergraduates will pay $1,860 in fees, which is down $10 from this year.
Carolina’s first priority for additional tuition money is to restore class sections lost to the state budget cuts. UNC saw relatively little impact from the reduction in sections last fall, but that may take a bigger hit this spring.
The in-state undergraduate average across the state’s 16 universities is 8.8 percent for next fall, then 4.2 percent for 2013-14. No campus got more than 9.8 percent for 2012-13. UNC was one of seven campuses that got less than requested.
UNC’s request was part of a proposal to add $2,800 to the bills of N.C. resident undergraduates incrementally over the next five years — a 55 percent increase from the current annual rate. That request was based on leeway Carolina officials believe they have because the University now is such a bargain compared with its peers. Other schools in the UNC System also proposed five-year plans. But, in concert with Ross’ recommendation, the board wouldn’t commit beyond two years.
The projected increase for 2013-14 is $600 for in-state undergraduates, but that will be subject to BOG approval this time next year. It’s not yet known how Carolina will adjust its longer-term request.
Student insistence that some families are being priced out of a Carolina education went up against the University’s efforts to replace income taken away in state budget cuts — about $100 million last year alone. Ross sought a balance for needy campuses in a rough economy.
“I tried to consider where the state is right now in terms of its own economy,” Ross said. “I’ve tried to consider where our campuses are and the impact of the reductions that we’ve had to absorb over the last four years. I’ve tried to consider students and families who are striving to get an education, but in an environment in which the economy is tough. So I think we’ve had to balance all of this to be sure that we’re protecting quality at the same time that we’re remaining as accessible and affordable as possible. It’s very tough during the times we’re facing.”
Student opposition was led by several different groups, and many complained that students did not have enough voice in the decision-making process. In the end the students’ systemwide organization, the Association of Student Governments, voted to go along with Ross’ recommendation.
“Of course, if you ask any student, they’re going to say, ‘No, I don’t want to pay any more tuition and fees,’” T.J. Eaves, student body president at Western Carolina University, told The Daily Tar Heel. “But we all understand that the quality of education is very important to every one of us, as our degrees are going to set us off on our careers for the rest of our lives.”