Leader of the pack
Some -- mostly legislators and UNC-system officials -- see the University as a guidepost for the rest of the system's schools and the state.
But UNC-CH's status at the top of the heap has provoked some school administrators to lobby for individual consideration.
Chancellor James Moeser, as recently as during the BOG's February meeting, has said that UNC-CH's special needs must be met if the University is to maintain its quality education and compete on a national level.
"UNC-Chapel Hill is in a unique position because we're in a completely different peer group (than other UNC-system schools)," Calabria said.
To maintain this standard, the University's Board of Trustees backed Moeser and voted in January for a tuition increase of $200 for residents and $950 for nonresidents for the coming year.
Moeser also spearheaded a systemwide effort last academic year to raise the out-of-state enrollment cap from 18 percent to 22 percent, a move that he said would enhance the campus's intellectual climate.
The BOG, after serious debate, decided that the system wasn't ready for such a change. Opponents argued that the raise would decrease system schools' abilities to serve the residents of North Carolina.
The question of whether UNC-CH is being held back by the 15 other campuses is one that both administrators and student officials are reluctant to address overtly.
But tension is evident within the system as colleges and universities across the state set their priorities.
Calabria said there is a legitimate case to be made for special treatment of the system's flagship university.
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"The relationship with Chapel Hill and the UNC system is in a lot of ways like the relationship between the United States and United Nations," he said. "You'd rather go your own way on various issues."
He said there's often healthy disagreement between the University and the system because of that.
"I think the beauty of the UNC system is the ongoing tension that exists between the campuses as they compete individually and encourage each others' successes," Gage said.
In October 2003 the University again outpaced higher education institutions by establishing the Carolina Covenant -- which ensures a full ride for low-income students in exchange for 10 to 12 hours per week in a federal work-study program.
Soon after, University of Virginia officials began a financial analysis of what it cost take them to establish such a program.
Several other states' universities also contacted UNC-CH for a rundown on the program.
A public service
But there are places where UNC-CH isn't quite ready to venture.
Though several public schools in Virginia are working with the Va. General Assembly to gain more autonomy, UNC-CH officials say the University will not be leaving its mission behind any time soon.
Under legislation passed by the state's General Assembly this month, Virginia's public universities would have to meet 11 criteria set by the legislature to gain autonomy.
The legislature's stipulations include a commitment to providing equal access to affordable education as well as the development of six-year revenue projections.
Though schools within the UNC system have felt the strain of funding crunches in recent years, UNC-CH administrators have expressed a desire to remain a public university.
And keeping things affordable is key to providing a top-notch education to all North Carolinians.
"I've never heard of anyone who didn't love it," Gage said.
Though UNC-CH has one of the nation's best basketball programs and is about to expand through its planned satellite campus Carolina North, it's the intangibles that often draw people to "Blue Heaven."
"Carolina offers a lot of things that don't translate into U.S. News rankings," Calabria said. "That's difficult to explain, but it's profoundly true."
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