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Chancellor Thorp ready to act on tuition

The tuition increase proposal Chancellor Holden Thorp will put before the Board of Trustees’ audit and finance committee today is the least costly of two options — for both the students and the school.

It holds increases for in-state students to the state’s prescribed $200 limit and raises out-of-state students’ tuition a corresponding percentage, a total of $1,126.68.

Thorp is also expected to recommend increasing graduate student tuition by 3.7 percent, or $731.98.

But it will also cost less in the political arena. Thorp said this proposal has more popular and political support and will more easily pass through the layers of oversight after UNC’s trustees.

“The Board of Governors is more likely to support the recommendation that I’m going to make, and I think it will have an easier time in Raleigh,” Thorp said Tuesday.

The proposal backs off administrators’ earlier zeal for higher hikes and a fight at the legislative level. A campus board that proposes tuition amounts recommended an in-state tuition increase of more than $200 last week, a move that would have required changing state budget law.

But that compromise means UNC might not have enough money for administrators’ priorities, which they said in previous talks would not be met by an across-the-board 5.2 percent increase, the amount Thorp is set to recommend. UNC won’t need to make budget decisions until this summer after further state budget talks.

The General Assembly could greatly alter what UNC receives from tuition increases. The state will collect $200 from every UNC-system student next school year for its own finances, money that would not go back to the schools. But the state could change its budget and send that money back to the universities if the financial situation improves.

In a series of phone calls, Thorp orchestrated the go-ahead for his plan with board chairman Bob Winston, as well as trustees Roger Perry and Sallie Shuping-Russell.

“I feel comfortable that the board will settle with the chancellor’s recommendations,” Winston said. “Some may want more, some may think less is better. At the end of the day, this is what we feel we can work through and come up with.”

Thorp said the proposal reflects students’ and parents’ concern in a difficult economic time.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between what we think we can ask people to do and what we are going to have to give up,” Thorp said. “This year we’re going to have to rummage around to see if we can find enough money to see if we can patch this over.”

Thorp credited students on the tuition and fee advisory task force with strategic vision in recommending the lower increase.

“If their knee-jerk reaction was to oppose any sort of increase, I think we would have gone with the larger one,” Thorp said. “It was pretty smart that they did that.”

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