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Officials suggest hikes of 6.5 percent on all, going against state mandates

How tuition proposals are passed
How tuition proposals are passed

The tuition and fee advisory task force favored increasing in-state tuition more than state law currently allows in its meeting Wednesday amid a packed house of student advocates.

The task force sent two proposals to Chancellor Holden Thorp that would increase tuition by the same percentage for both in-state and out-of-state students.

The task force recommended either a 6.5 percent increase for all students, or 5.2 percent for undergraduate students and 3.7 percent for graduate students.

The task force’s focus on parity might be mostly a symbolic gesture, intended to show that administrators have student concerns about fairness in mind. But it also emphasizes UNC administrators’ perceived financial need, an issue the task force must take up with state lawmakers.

“This is the first bullet we’ve got to fire at the legislature,” said Bruce Carney, UNC’s interim executive vice chancellor and provost.

Administrators must now make their case to a series of higher authorities that UNC’s financial need is enough to justify the fight required to make significant changes in the state’s budget plan.

Increasing in-state tuition more than $200 had not been officially discussed before Wednesday. The state budget, passed in August, included a provision that limited in-state tuition increases to $200 — or 5.2 percent above current rates — next year.

Task force members had said several times in previous meetings that in-state tuition was not under consideration.

Administrators brought this idea forward because they said keeping the increase at 5.2 percent for all students simply wouldn’t bring the University enough in revenue to pay for its priorities.

They said only increasing out-of-state students’ tuition 6.5 percent, while keeping the 5.2 percent increase for in-state students, would generate enough revenue but would not be fair.

The $200 mandated by the legislature will go back to the state instead of being controlled by the University.

To make up for that lost revenue, UNC had been looking to raise out-of-state tuition in order to fund its priorities.

The legislature might be willing to change its stance on the cap on in-state students’ tuition increases and could even return the $200 mandated increase to the campus, UNC trustee Roger Perry said at the meeting. The $200 from every student would total about $5.3 million.

While task force members supported keeping the same percentage increases regardless of residency status, most task force members indicated preferences for the higher figure.

The 6.5 percent increase is the maximum allowable for in-state undergraduate students under UNC-system guidelines.

The only dissenting votes on the preference came from Student Body President Jasmin Jones and Student Body Vice President David Bevevino, who preferred the smaller increase.

UNC trustee Sallie Shuping-Russell abstained from indicating a preference.

Task force members said they thought the talks went well and sent the debate in a positive direction.

“I think it gives the chancellor the flexibility he needs, and it sets the parameters for the discussion,” Shuping-Russell said.

The discussion about which proposal Thorp will choose will focus on UNC’s needs and on the way to meet them with tuition dollars. Increased tuition will go to fund financial aid, faculty salaries and academic services.

The University saw students with financial need increase 23 percent this year, and half the tuition increase is slated to ensure that UNC can meet all of students’ demonstrated need with the same percentage of grants.

Campus officials also say the cost of faculty retention is a critical fight.

“Our primary obligation and responsibility to you as students is to make sure that the quality of education here at Carolina stays the same or gets better,” Perry said.

At next week’s Board of Trustees meeting, Thorp likely will present his preference for approval.

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