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$950 tuition increase undecided

Would affect in-state students

UNC-Chapel Hill officials are struggling to decide whether they should increase tuition by $950 for in-state students next fall.

The 2010-11 state budget includes a provision allowing UNC-system schools to increase tuition by up to $750 next year on top of individual tuition increases approved last year.

The provision was created in response to a $70 million cut in system funding for next year .

That provision also mandates that no less than 20 percent of the tuition increase must go to supporting need-based financial aid at system schools. The remaining balance will go to offsetting budget cuts at UNC-system schools.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney said the University has not decided how much it will raise tuition on top of a $200 increase approved by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees last year. They are currently reviewing various options.

“The big issue with any tuition increase is how to make the effects to students as harmless as possible,” Carney said.

A major concern is the ability of the University to cover need-based financial aid to students, Carney said.

Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, said it is the University’s policy to provide 35 percent of tuition to need-based financial aid — far above the state-mandated 20 percent. She said they are working to ensure that students who need financial assistance will be able to receive it even with the possibility of a tuition increase.

We are assuming the money we can get through tuition increases will offset the money students would receive through loans,” Ort said.

System schools will notify UNC-system President Erskine Bowles of their tuition-increase plans in order to receive his approval. Carney said UNC submitted a request to the UNC-system General Administration last week asking to mandate that 35 percent of the tuition increase go toward funding financial aid for the University.

“If it dropped to 20 percent, students wouldn’t get money they need. Student indebtedness would rise and more loans would be taken out,” Carney said.

Ernie Murphrey, vice president for finance with the General Administration, said they have been in discussion with schools about possible courses of action. Plans are tentative as the N.C. General Assembly confirms budget details this week.

UNC-Wilmington has already requested to increase its tuition by $430 for next year.

UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Hogan Medlin said an increase in tuition could possibly stop budget cuts from affecting academics, as the cuts have mainly been restricted to University administration.

Budget cuts in the academic sector could increase class size and leave fewer class sections available to students.

Medlin said he was worried that student voices won’t be heard with all the decision-making power being given to Bowles by the General Assembly. But he hoped that they would be included in the discussion.

One option being considered was raising in-state and lowering out-of-state tuition to the same price next year, Medlin said.

Carney said increases to tuition will be discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting later this month.

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