Correction (Feb. 28 11:13 p.m.): Due to a reporting error this story misquotes Chancellor Holden Thorp, who actually said the Board of Trustees was likely to support his tuition increase recommendation.
UNC-system President Erskine Bowles could change the dynamics of the tuition debate for the UNC system, particularly UNC-Chapel Hill.
At a news conference Friday, he said that the UNC system is not equally obligated to keep tuition low for in-state and out-of-state students.
“I’m a low tuition person,” he said. “I don’t have the same feeling for out-of-state students.”
The implication was that he does not agree with UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp’s recommendation Thursday to increase out-of-state tuition by 5.2 percent.
That is the lower of two options and mirrors the recommended percentage increase for in-state students.
Bowles has the chance to approve or reject each school’s tuition proposals before passing them along to the Board of Governors.
“We have an obligation to the taxpayers of North Carolina,” Bowles said. “For out-of-state students, we ought to be much more market-driven.”
Referring specifically to UNC-Chapel Hill, where out-of-state student tuition has been heavily debated, Bowles said out-of-state students are benefiting from the state’s investment in education.
They are still getting a great deal if the cost of tuition and fees — $23,513 for 2009-10 — is considered relative to educational quality and the costs of peer universities, he said.
At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, out-of-state tuition and fees is $35,126 for 2009-10. At the University of Virginia, it is $31,230.
“It’s the No. 1 value in the country. I think they’re really, really lucky,” Bowles said.
The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees is unlikely to approve the lower increase, Thorp said Friday, so Bowles’ opposition could be irrelevant.
Bowles says UNC system needs the full $200
Bowles also said Friday that he will propose that the N.C. General Assembly give the system back the $200 it levied on students to help close the state budget gap.
As it stands now, the $200 will go to the state’s general fund, an uncommon move that allows them to spend it on anything in the budget.
Under Bowles’ proposal, half of that increase will go to need-based aid and half will be used to improve graduation and retention rates.
Without the $200, the UNC system might not have the money it needs for either priority, he said.
The demand for need-based aid has skyrocketed, he said, citing a 14 percent increase in applications at N.C. State University and a 20 percent increase in eligibility.
Bowles said legislators were encouraging when he broached the idea and told him to put together a formal proposal for them to consider next year.
But the final decision will hinge on the state’s fiscal condition at the time.
Board still torn over details of leave time
An unexpected, heated debate sprung up about leave and salaries — known as retreat rights — for administrators stepping down to faculty positions during Friday’s Board of Governors meeting.
The revised policy for chancellors and presidents, which scales back the leave time and salaries they receive after resigning their administrative posts, was approved by the personnel and tenure committee Thursday.
Some non-committee members were upset by how much leave time was scaled back — from 12 months to six.
“These guys are not overly compensated at all,” said Paul Fulton, a former UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees member. “I think the 12 months is well-earned.”
Rather than change the policy, some board members suggested giving the president the authority to override the six-month stipulation when he feels it is warranted.
Board Chairwoman Hannah Gage and Bowles both had misgivings about leaving it ambiguous.
“We want this as close to exact as we can get,” Gage said.
They implied that leaving the decision up to the president or board left room for further incidents of excessive retreat rights.
Part of the problem is that according to the policy, the board has the ability to override the president’s decision. Bowles said he was overruled in past discussions on retreat rights cases, which led to problems later.
“You need to either give the president the authority or not.”
Contact the State & National Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.