In a proposed budget going before the UNC-system Board of Governors, system President Molly Broad has recommended that there be a systemwide 0 percent tuition increase.
The suggestion not to implement a systemwide increase is the best proposal for BOG members to go with. The potential to apply downward pressure on legislators' tuition policy outweighs any gains to be made by trying to outguess them.
The proposal might, at least, lead to low tuition increases and, at best, encourage legislators to hold tuition for the next year. Either will be helpful to public university students throughout the state.
Broad was sent two proposals by a divided Tuition Task Force - either forgo a systemwide increase or raise tuition systemwide by 2.2 percent. The latter proposal should be enough of a "guideline" for legislators should they need one later.
But if campaign statements mean anything, a 0 percent increase proposed by the BOG will have Governor Mike Easley's support.
Though Broad's recommendation might help put the kibosh on any systemwide increases, there's still pressure at the individual campuses for raises in tuition. Administrators at N.C. State University have already made plans to renew a previous request for a $300 in-state tuition increase.
Such a keen sentiment for increases could find itself at UNC-Chapel Hill, especially in light of the recent Board of Trustees price sensitivity report indicating that tuition could be drastically raised without much consequence. The report's findings seem questionable, and the BOT would be wise to be wary of tuition increases at UNC-CH based on just that research - even research-supported increases risk alienating applicants.
Broad has made a great start to the debate over tuition increases. Recommending a 0 percent increase sends a clear message: There does not need to be a major tuition increase, if one is needed at all.
This is the kind of message and downward pressure on tuition that the BOG, BOT, and the General Assembly should be hearing right now. Hopefully they will make the right call for the students of the UNC-system and follow Broad's lead.
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