Nonresidents Could Be In for Major Tuition Increase

Sentiment among members of the UNC Board of Trustees appears to be in favor of a significant tuition increase for out-of-state students that would take effect in the fall.

Campus leaders interrupted their tuition discussions last fall when it became clear that a plan to raise the limit on out-of-state admissions was not well-received in the state. The trustees began digging in on a plan that came to light in a five-hour workshop Jan. 7 – a prelude to a vote on the matter later this month. Three scenarios call for non-North Carolinians to pay $1,000, $1,250 or $1,500 more. In-state tuition also could rise, possibly by $300.

The trustees were told that the current $15,920 a year paid by nonresidents in tuition and fees is about $3,500 short of putting UNC in the 75th percentile in out-of-state tuition among 10 of its peer universities. Closing that gap would require more hefty increases in subsequent years.

The trustees heard several reports – including separate tuition increase pitches from professional school deans – about the competitive dangers of keeping Carolina’s tuition down. The University recently has seen a drop in its ability to fend off raids of faculty by other schools, from a 60 percent to 40 percent success rate in holding off raids. Chancellor James Moeser told the trustees that the University could not go forward without some defense against these raids. “If there were no other reason to address this issue, that one stands tall,” Moeser said.

Revenue from the tuition increase would go mostly to raising faculty salaries and hiring additional faculty to reduce the student-teacher ratio. The University would set aside 40 percent of the revenues for need-based financial aid, a fairly standard practice.

Of 10 peer institutions, UNC’s out-of-state tuition for undergraduates is lower than all but the universities of Texas and Florida, and it is lower than all except Texas for graduate students. The mean among those 10 schools is $18,180 for undergraduates and $18,998 for graduate students.

Admissions Director Jerry Lucido, who watches how tuition rates affect UNC’s attractiveness outside the state, told the trustees he would be comfortable with the high-end scenario on two conditions: that admissions receive some money to add some merit scholarship enticements; and that any increases beyond this year be done only after serious study of the potential impact on Carolina’s ability to compete with other schools for the best out-of-state students.

The issues are complicated. The trustees also were told that, according to the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, UNC’s current out-of-state tuition and fees cover about $300 more than the total cost of educating a student – while the $4,072 paid a year by N.C. residents is far short of the actual cost. While in-state tuition is subsidized by the taxes students’ families pay to support the UNC System, Moeser acknowledged that the prevailing assumption had been that nonresidents did not cover the actual cost of their education.

A big hit to out-of-state pocketbooks would go against the recommendations of the campus Tuition Task Force, which has studied the issue of tuition increases in detail over the past three years and which overwhelmingly favors a $300 increase for all students.

The last three campus-based increases have been $300 for everyone. That means, percentage-wise, a much bigger hike for in-staters.

Student body Vice President Rebekah Burford, who served on the last three task forces along with administrators and faculty, told the trustees, “Wherever you come from, $300 is pretty much $300.”

Daniel Herman, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, decried what he sees as an “undergraduate-centric” concentration in tuition considerations. He told the trustees a big out-of-state increase could have a dramatic impact on graduate students – 70 percent of first-year grad students are nonresidents of the state, Herman said.

Of 10 trustees at the table on Jan. 7, student body President Matt Tepper appeared to be alone in opposing the increases for nonresidents.

“It appears to me the risk of erosion of quality is much greater if we sit and wait” with just a $300 across-the-board increase, said Trustee Rusty Carter ’71 of Wilmington. Carter said he favored the more strategic approach of bringing out-of-state tuition more in line with that of other schools, urging the trustees to “be bold.”

The UNC System Board of Governors, and ultimately the N.C. General Assembly, would need to approve any campus-based increases. Moeser told the trustees that requests already are in from the other campuses – every one asked for $300 across the board except UNC-Wilmington, which requested $360.

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