Facing a $3.7 billion shortfall in the state budget, some University officials have found themselves preoccupied by the prospect of 5, 10 and 15 percent cuts.
But Dan Thornton, associate director for scholarships and student aid, said he has another figure on his mind — $7.9 million.
That’s the burden a repeal of the 2004 state law providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students receiving full merit scholarships would place on UNC, he said.
And if the legislature does not grandfather in current students, UNC will have to raise an average of $1.97 million a year for four years to honor its commitments.
Administrators say if the legislature rescinds the law, the University could lack the funds to recruit the top quality out-of-state students it has in the past.
The repeal would negatively affect the Morehead-Cain and Robertson scholarships, which both pay in-state tuition for out-of-state scholarship recipients.
“If it were repealed we would lose approximately 20 scholarships out of a class of 60 — 11 North Carolinians and nine out-of-state students,” said Chuck Lovelace, executive director of the Morehead-Cain Foundation.
“What some people don’t always understand is that the provision lowers our cost of out-of-state students, so we can get more of both in-state and out-of-state students.”
Thornton said UNC created a spreadsheet this summer predicting the gap the University would have to make up for if the legislation passes. He said he thinks the likelihood of a repeal is about 50 percent, as it has been controversial from the start. The current law also keeps hundreds of thousands of tuition dollars from the University.
Thornton said there is also a widely-held belief that UNC should only be for N.C. residents.
“A lot of constituents ask why we are giving extra incentives to out-of-state students, and feel they’re bumping out in-state students. These are the smartest kids in the country, and they wanted to come here,” he said.
Shirley Ort, associate provost and director for scholarships and student aid, said the University will honor its current scholarships no matter what happens with the law.
“There’s no way you can prepare, really,” she said. “But the important thing to know is when we make an obligation or a commitment to a student, it lasts for four years.”
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