UNC May Have to Make Do With Smaller Tuition Hike

UNC will get a smaller tuition increase than it asked for if the UNC System Board of Governors goes along with the recommendation of system President Thomas Ross ’75 (JD).

Ross told the BOG on Thursday that there must be a balance between the tuition hunger of universities trying to deal with budget cuts and the affordability of a public college in the state. His school-by-school numbers are expected in the next few weeks, and the BOG is expected to make its decisions about 2012-13 tuition in February. But Ross said he wanted the overall number to be below last year’s 9.3 percent average increase for the 16 campuses. And he does not want any school to exceed 10 percent.

“It’s about a balance,” Ross said. “It’s about a balance between low tuition and high quality, maintaining excellence.”

Carolina is asking for $800 more in tuition for in-state undergraduates for 2012-13 — an 11.1 percent increase in tuition (when fees are added), from $7,008 per year to $7,788. Tuition and fees would total $27,505 for out-of-state residents under a requested 6.5 percent increase.

UNC’s request is 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. Other schools also have proposed five-year plans.

Ross said Thursday that his recommendations would cover two years but that he would not entertain five-year plans at this time.

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.

Student protests against the increases greeted the board on Thursday. The BOG also received a letter signed by 20 former members of the board saying the BOG should reject the tuition increase proposals.

The 16 schools have lost $482 million in permanent cuts in state revenue over the past four years, when funding increases for enrollment growth are factored in. Carolina lost about $100 million to the cuts last year alone. The tuition increase requests — accompanied by examples of hardship being experienced on all the campuses — range from 13.5 percent at UNC-Asheville to 4.3 percent at UNC-Pembroke. Other universities with double-digit increase requests include N.C. State, UNC-Wilmington, Winston-Salem State and the UNC School of the Arts.

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. UNC currently is regarded as the best value among 10 peers. The BOG was told this week that its campuses are meeting its requirement to remain in the bottom quartile for tuition among their peers.

Carolina’s first priority with any additional tuition money is to restore class sections lost to the budget cuts. UNC saw relatively little impact from the reduction in sections last fall, but that may take a bigger hit this spring. Student body President Mary Cooper told the BOG, “I sat on the floor in a classroom Monday night because there weren’t enough seats. All this is coming together and making people wonder about the University’s future.”

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