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Monday January 24th

Schools to push for lesser tuition increase

DTH/Ariel Rudolph
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UNC system leaders announced Thursday that they will push for tuition increases lower than the amount mandated by the state legislature.

They will also continue to lobby for revenue generated by the increases to be returned to the campuses.

UNC-system President Erskine Bowles says getting the money back is crucial to meet an increased need for financial aid.

The N.C. General Assembly passed a mandate last summer increasing 2010-11 tuition by the lesser of $200 or 8 percent at all system schools. Across the campuses, the average increase would be $180 or 7.2 percent.

The revenue generated by that increase would go to the state’s general fund to help close the budget shortfall.

But proposals put forward by individual campuses are significantly less. The average proposed increase for residents is $131, or 5.2 percent.

Vice President for Finance Rob Nelson presented each campus’ request to the Board of Governors’ budget and finance committee at their monthly meeting Thursday.

Nelson is reviewing each campus’ tuition proposals and will pass feedback on to Bowles in the next few weeks.

Bowles will submit his official tuition recommendations to the board for approval at the end of January. The plans must then be approved by the legislature.

Bowles has asked the legislature to consider replacing its tuition increase with the less costly proposal from the UNC system and to return all of the revenue generated by the increase to the system — 50 percent for need-based aid, 25 percent for improving graduation and retention rates and 25 percent for other critical needs.

In past years, 36 percent of tuition revenue has gone to need-based aid.

“We have more people at the top and we have more people at the bottom. It’s the middle that’s getting squeezed,” Bowles said.

Legislators have indicated they are willing to hear him out, he said.

The UNC-system Association of Student Governments is joining the effort. Student body presidents are circulating a petition at their campuses that asks for the full $200 back and for the legislature to go with the campuses’ proposals.

The idea was first proposed by UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Jasmin Jones in November.

The goal is to get students more engaged in the tuition process and to have tangible evidence of student support when ASG members begin meeting with legislators later this semester, said ASG President Greg Doucette.

“After awhile, legislators kind of get sick of me saying the same thing over and over again,” Doucette said. “When you’ve got something you can hand them … it carries more impact.”

Jones also is leading the effort to engage with legislators on the tuition increase before they convene in May. They have already contacted about 50 legislators and about 20 have responded to their requests for a meeting, she said.

“There’s a lot of people helping us, but it’s all about blind faith at the moment.”

Assistant State & National Editor Tarini Parti contributed reporting.

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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