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Sunday May 16th

Board of Governors to discuss UNC-system budget issues, tuition increases

To discuss budget, tuition concerns

Discussion concerning the UNC system’s budget for next year and potential tuition increases will start in earnest at the Board of Governors’ meeting today.

The board will be going through recommendations to update the Four Year Tuition Plan, which was set in place by the system’s President Erskine Bowles in 2006 to make the tuition process more predictable and structured.

The plan is set to expire this year.

“I don’t expect to take any action right now, but we do want to review and modify it if the board is so inclined and put this to bed by the end of the year,” said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the board.

“Overall, the board feels that this policy has worked well. I don’t anticipate any substantial philosophical change.”

But at UNC’s tuition and fee advisory task force meeting last week, members expressed using the review of the plan as an opportunity to raise tuition to put UNC in line with its peer public institutions and protect it from future state budget cuts.

All proposed campus increases have to be approved by the board, and Gage said if UNC asks to move to a high-tuition model — like its peers the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan — the board would not pass the proposal.

“I don’t think there is an enormous appetite on our board to follow Virginia or Michigan,” Gage said.

By moving toward the high-tuition model, those schools have also had to accept more out-of-state students, leaving their commitment to the state behind, Gage said.

“These become national schools and not state schools,” she said. “I think you can still have the kind of excellence that UNC-Chapel Hill wants without abandoning the tuition model and the state.

“I could be surprised by the direction our board takes, but we haven’t heard anything from our board moving in this direction.”

Gage said the economic downturn has forced campuses and the system to rethink their plans, but no drastic changes should be made.

“It’s important for no one to make hasty long-term decisions when we are in an economic crisis,” she said. “It’s when we need to be thoughtful and rational.”

The board will work on a budget request to send to the N.C. General Assembly and will begin coming up with ways to make up for the inevitable cuts in state appropriations.

The system is dealing with a total of $575 million in cuts in the last three years and has already cut 23 percent in expenses and nearly 900 administrative positions.

Gage said they will be looking at ways to make their online and distance-learning programs stronger to accommodate the increasing number of students at a time when the system is starved for resources.

“We’re going to see more and more technological advances that make those type of classes more powerful than ever,” she said.

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

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