The UNC trustees agree with the chancellor and provost that a dramatic tuition increase is the only immediate answer to three years of heavy state budget cutting, which culminated in a loss of about $100 million to the University last year.
They have asked the UNC System Board of Governors to approve a one-time exception to the prevailing 6.5 percent cap on annual hikes that would add $2,800 to the bills of N.C. resident undergraduates incrementally over the next five years — a 55 percent increase from the current $5,128 annual rate. That could go up even more — the one-time adjustment, if approved, would be in addition to annual increases.
Under the proposal, tuition would go up for the 2012-13 school year by $800; the proposed amounts in the subsequent four years have not been determined.
Tuition plus $930 in fees would total $7,798 a year for undergraduate residents and $27,505 for out-of-state undergraduates. The package includes a $10 reduction in fees for next year. The trustees’ recommendation goes to the BOG for action in January.
The $2,800 represents what would be needed to raise Carolina to the top of the bottom quartile of tuition currently charged by 10 public peer institutions. UNC’s tuition now is lower than all but one of those peers.
The BOG has invited the state’s campuses “with significant unfunded needs” to make a case for a one-time exception that would exceed the annual cap. In an October letter, the BOG said it would consider comparisons with peer universities in determining whether to allow a campus the one-time adjustment. The BOG is expected to make decisions on individual cases in January.
Out-of-state residents face a 6.5 percent increase for 2012-13. The approved plan was the recommendation of the campus tuition advisory task force, which passed it earlier this week by a 9-5 vote. An alternative proposal, put forth by Student Body President Mary Cooper, would have raised tuition 6.4 percent for in-state students and 4 percent for nonresidents and would have included an additional 5 percent hike for 2012-13 incoming freshmen — part of a philosophy that officials should try to minimize increases for students already enrolled.
Sandra Hoeflich, associate dean for interdisciplinary education, fellowships and communication in the Graduate School, explained the task force’s rationale. “No one wants to have a tuition increase,” she said. “We’re in a rock and a hard place. If you look at the intent, what we want to do is ensure quality of the University.
“If we’re not able to provide salary increases for faculty or stipend increases for graduate students, students who would prefer to come here are put in the position where they may have to go where they’ll be able to live easier. We don’t want to be in that situation.”
Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 and Provost Bruce Carney have said repeatedly that they believe UNC’s status as a bargain relative to its peers gives it significant leeway to use a tuition increase to offset some of the state funding cuts.
Of the University’s four sources of funding — government contracts, state appropriations, private gifts and tuition — tuition is the only one in which UNC has a decision-making role. For the other three, its role is essentially to make cases for being entrusted with money and to demonstrate how it would use that money to the betterment of North Carolina and the world.
“We do not see alternatives [to an increase] other than lowering the quality,” Carney said. “If the state can’t help us for at least a few years, our practical approach has been a combination of tuition and private fundraising and to try and get more support from the state.”
Pressing needs for an increase, according to a report to the Board of Trustees in October, include salary increases for faculty and stipend increases for graduate students; hiring of new faculty, teaching assistants and advisers; library funding; classroom technology improvements; and the means to accelerate diversification of the faculty.