Change in out-of-state rate in talks

The financially strapped UNC system could soon implement a policy that has proved controversial in the past — lifting the 18 percent cap on out-of-state and international student enrollment.

The proposal is just one of the revenue-boosting measures that could feature in the system’s five-year strategic plan, which members of the system’s Board of Governors discussed at their meeting Thursday.

A first draft of the plan was unveiled Monday. It aims to make North Carolina one of the top 10 “most educated states” by increasing the percentage of degree-holding North Carolinians from 29.5 percent to 37 percent by 2025.

POTENTIAL CHANGES TO 18 PERCENT CAP

The UNC-system Board of Governors could raise the 18 percent cap on out-of-state and international student enrollment in its five-year strategic plan:

  • There is currently an 18 percent cap on nonresident students for first-time and full-time freshmen.
  • The plan could lift the cap while simultaneously holding harmless the number of slots available to resident students.

Some board members view raising the cap as a potential source of revenue during a tough economic period for the state and its universities. The system has absorbed millions in budget cuts in recent years, including a cut of $414 million, or 15.6 percent, in 2011.

Irvin Roseman, a member of the board, said international students could be an untapped source of tuition revenue. Tuition and fees for state residents are almost $7,500 at UNC-CH, compared to about $28,250 for nonresidents, which include international students.

“The idea of an international level of tuition, which would be higher than out-of-state or in-state, would certainly be a source of revenue for each campus,” Roseman said.

But he admitted that state legislators might not be receptive to exceeding the cap.

“I personally don’t think you’re going to be able to change the 18 percent — I don’t think the legislature would let you do that.”

Raising the cap could be seen as a slight to state residents, especially in light of the state’s constitutional mandate to provide a free university education to state residents “as far as practicable.” But the proposal would hold harmless the number of slots available to in-state students.

Universities have continued to brush up against the cap to attract top students and meet minimum admissions standards. UNC-CH paid a fine of $158,225 in 2011 for exceeding the cap.

Still, admitting more out-of-state and international students would essentially increase enrollment during a time when state money is scarce. Board members acknowledged that universities must also do a better job of private fundraising.

The board will vote in February on the final plan — which board chairman Peter Hans emphasized is still in its draft stage.

“This is the start of the conversation, not the finish of it,” Hans said.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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