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The Daily Tar Heel

Don’t buy in to the hype on tuition

This article was published in the 2009 Year in Review issue of The Daily Tar Heel.

We’ve heard more about budgets, shortfalls and cuts this year than in any other of our lives.

At UNC, the losses have been real. Scores of University staff members have lost their jobs as departments have cut back.

All told, the University got about $40 million less than it had planned from the state last year. About $67 million was cut back for the coming year.

Administrators have argued that tuition increases are necessary to maintain the University’s academic quality. Members of the tuition and fee advisory task force began their meetings this year with the assumption that a tuition increase was vital to move the University forward.

Without a maxed-out tuition increase, the University won’t be able to properly give financial aid and won’t be able to retain quality faculty, administrators say.

There appears to be an unassailable belief that tuition should rise every year.

Don’t buy into the hype too quickly.

Granted, the University is a political animal. It relies heavily on state appropriations, and administrators have to fight to convince politicians that UNC needs every dollar it can get.

But though the University did face a significant reduction in funding from the state, it still received more than $538 million last year and is on track to get about the same this year. That’s a lot more than many of our peers.

Here’s some more perspective.

The tuition increases proposed by Chancellor Holden Thorp would bring in only about $4 million after the state takes its $200 cut. The University raised that much in two weeks during a 2002 fundraising campaign.

Even getting all that money back from the state, the total is only about $9.2 million. Still just a drop in the bucket. The University is spending more than five times that much to revamp student software programs.

UNC has an annual budget of $2.3 billion. Administrators are planning a $4 billion fundraising campaign.

And money seems to “appear” when it is needed. In August, the Office of Scholarships and Student aid said it ran out of money. That is, until the provost’s office came up with enough money to rescue it.

The state constitution mandates that undergraduate education should be provided to residents for as close to free as possible.

With nearly 500,000 North Carolinians out of work last month and millions more struggling, this year needed a different perspective brought to the provost’s table.

The tuition debates should have been held out in a Wilson County tobacco field, at a table headed by a farm worker living on $9.50 per hour.

How much would a $250 increase impact his ability to send his son to the institution dedicated to educating the state’s young people?

UNC system policy mandates that tuition should be increased only if a stringent set of guidelines are met.

But in the last 10 years, tuition has more than doubled for in-state students and more than tripled for out-of-state students.

I’m headed into my last semester lucky to have been able to scrape enough money together to make it to graduation. In 2010, let’s think more about where our priorities lie. Is it in raising the equivalent of a two week fundraiser? Or in remaining accessible to the people of North Carolina?

Andrew Dunn is a senior journalism major from Apex. Contact Andrew at

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