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BOT to Form Tuition-Evaluation Panel

After an informational presentation on past tuition increases from Provost Robert Shelton, officials called for the formation of a committee to evaluate if there is a need for a new tuition increase and to draft a proposal before the BOT's meeting on Jan. 24.

"I would like to get together a group, have them chew on the data, think about what other data we need and consider possible scenarios," Shelton said, meeting with approval from Chancellor James Moeser and BOT members.

Student Body President Justin Young, a voting member of the BOT, said he met with Shelton after the meeting to iron out the committee's potential composition. He said they tentatively decided to have a 10-member committee, which would include three students, one graduate and two undergraduates. The other members would be faculty members, trustees and administrators.

The subject of tuition was first raised by Sue Estroff, chairwoman of the Faculty Council, in her opening remarks. Estroff said she was aware that the BOT would be discussing tuition and asked them not to justify an increase in the name of faculty salaries.

The last campus-initiated tuition increase at UNC came in 1999 after the Chancellor's Committee on Faculty Salaries and Benefits proposed a 5-year, $300 increase for in-state undergraduate students and $2,000 for all other students to help close the gap between average faculty salaries at UNC and those at its peer institutions. "I would like to unlink a tuition increase specifically from faculty salaries," Estroff said. "Posing a tuition increase in this way creates a division between faculty and students that we have in the past found untenable."

Discussion about the motivation behind a potential tuition increase dominated the remainder of the meeting.

The two problem areas on which Shelton's presentation focused were new faculty recruitment and faculty-student ratios. He said UNC's student-faculty ratio is at about 21 students per faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences, which is far above the goal of 15 students per faculty member.

Shelton also said that despite gains, UNC still was not competitive with its peers in terms of faculty salaries and was likely to fall further behind because of state budget problems. "Certainly we feel that the single most important factor in maintaining Carolina's excellent experience for undergraduates is the presence of high-quality faculty," he said.

Shelton also stressed throughout his presentation that although the average income of UNC students' families indicated an ability to pay more, any increase would need to be accompanied by sufficient student aid.

Moeser commended Shelton on his presentation, saying he felt faculty-related issues were critically in need of funding. "If you want to build a case (for a tuition increase) on campus, that may be an argument," he said. "It shouldn't be faculty salaries alone this year -- there are other quality issues, such as the faculty-student ratio and the number of faculty."

He also said he wanted to make sure any tuition increase did not unfairly target out-of-state students.

"We need to be a university with that kind of diversity -- cultural, national and international -- we need to be careful not to ratchet up out-of-state tuition to the point where it becomes prohibitive."

But some trustees expressed reservations, especially about the context in which the proposal might be framed.

"The University has a long history of low tuition, and it is an important part of its tradition," said trustee Paul Fulton. "It's very dangerous for us to begin to compare with average numbers at other schools. We need to remember where we came from and use tuition to improve the quality of undergraduate education on campus."

Young also said he wants to be convinced of a specific need at UNC that an increase would fund. "It is important to look at the detailed need -- how much money you are looking for, what you want out of this and if tuition is a way to solve this," he said.

Trustee Stick Williams said he is open-minded about an upcoming proposal, but he thought the main goal of the committee would be to find a need and explain it clearly to the University community. "I want to always be as clear as possible to spell out and show the financial impact to students and their families."

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