As the University system prepares for one of its toughest years in history, its Board of Governors today will tackle two big issues facing students — the rising cost of tuition and the depleting funds for financial aid.
The board is expected to review campus proposals for tuition increases to send to the N.C. General Assembly for approval. Although students will not know the final tuition increase until the summer, the outcome is expected to be bleak.
Most campuses, including UNC, have proposed tuition increases close to 6.5 percent, which is the most they could ask for under the system’s tuition policy.
As board members consider the tuition proposals, UNC-system Association of Student Governments President Atul Bhula, who is a non-voting member of the board, is expected to provide student feedback.
“I want the board to realize any type of tuition increase is definitely going to impact the students,” Bhula said. “We can’t afford it.”
Administrators at the University level said in November they asked for the full increase to offset the inevitable budget cuts looming ahead.
Gov. Bev Perdue had originally asked the UNC system to prepare for cuts between 5 and 10 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.
But in a recent memo to chancellors, new UNC-system President Thomas Ross said a 15 percent cut could be a possibility in light of an expected $3.7 billion state budget shortfall.
The state legislature could also approve a supplementary tuition increase during the summer or mandate the revenue generated from the increase go toward the state’s general fund instead of staying on the campuses.
“To remain strong, there will have to be shared pain and shared sacrifice,” said the board’s chairwoman Hannah Gage in an e-mail.
The board is also expected to discuss alternative sources of financial aid for students.
The state’s escheats fund, which is composed of revenue from unclaimed property, provides about 83 percent of the state grants for need-based aid given out by the UNC system.
It is expected to be depleted in the next two years.
“We have no solution for our state need-based-aid funding,” Gage said. “Approximately 100,000 students receive some funding from this source, so finding an alternative will be crucial.”
Bruce Mallette, senior associate vice president for academic and student affairs, said he will present data on how many students receive different types of grants and other aid in the UNC system.
And two financial aid officers from different campuses will discuss how financial aid should be packaged for students.
The board will vote on the tuition proposals at its next meeting in February. Then, they will have to be approved by the N.C. General Assembly this summer.
Assistant State & National editor Isabella Cochrane contributed to reporting.
Contact the State and National Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.