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A bill filed in the N.C. Senate would enable the UNC System Board of Governors to make significant changes in the tuition and fee structure for the system’s 16 universities.
The bill, whose primary sponsor is Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Hendersonville, would immunize incoming freshmen against tuition and fee increases for that student’s college career, provided he or she graduates in four consecutive years, or five years for five-year programs.
It also calls for the BOG to authorize reductions in fees of 10 percent to 25 percent, school by school, at the board’s discretion, starting in 2018.
The sponsors state concerns over the rising cost of college attendance in the past 10 years and the accompanying increase in loan debt at graduation. The bill said the average debt in the system’s universities is $23,440, up 52 percent in the past decade. (Carolina students have a lower average debt of about $19,000, while the national average is $28,950.)
The biggest changes would affect four of the system’s smaller universities — tuition would be reduced dramatically to $500 per semester for in-state students and $2,500 for non-North Carolinians at Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, Pembroke State, Western Carolina and Winston-Salem State. Tuition would drop by more than half at those schools.
System spokesperson Joni Worthington ’83 (MA) told The Herald-Sun of Durham that the bill still was being evaluated. “Additional information and analyses will be needed to determine what impacts they could have on individual UNC institutions and the UNC system as a whole.”
The bill also authorizes the BOG to consider whether to raise or eliminate the current BOG-set 18 percent cap on out-of-state admissions at those five schools.
It also calls for establishment of merit scholarships, for the full cost of attendance, at N.C. A&T and N.C. Central universities. The initial cost for up to 50 scholarships at each school — 40 for in-state students and 10 for out-of-staters — would be covered in a $2.2 million appropriation from the state’s general fund. The scholarships would be administered by the UNC General Administration.
The bill also calls for the BOG to consider whether to change the names of some schools whose current names may adversely affect the number, academic strength and diversity of applications for admission.
The bill’s 27 sponsors all are Republicans.