The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

Thomas Ross advises against tuition hikes

Board of Governors could approve supplemental increases for schools

UNC-system President Thomas Ross advised against supplemental tuition increases at today’s Board of Governors meeting after state legislators did not address tuition in their proposed state budget.

The board approved further tuition hikes last year after a provision was included in the budget that allowed them to do so. Both UNC and N.C. State University raised tuition by the maximum permissible increase of $750 to provide emergency funds last summer.

The board has already approved tuition increases averaging $208 for undergraduate residents and $650 for nonresidents. Higher tuition would help offset a 14.6 percent cut in state funding — a reduction of $407 million — in the state budget bill now being reviewed by Gov. Bev Perdue.

Board members expressed confusion about the exact nature of the cuts after Charles Perusse, vice president for finance for the system, said the cut appears larger because of temporary federal stimulus funds in last year’s budget that will dry up this year. Perusse said the actual cut, in terms of a change in spending authority from last year, will be 10.5 percent.

Ross said there’s more than one way to approach a double-digit cut in state funding.

“We can moan and groan about it or, on the other hand, we can understand that we have a responsibility to the people of North Carolina,” he said. “The issues are big ones but we are going to face them whether we have the money in the current budget or less.”

Randy Woodson, chancellor of N.C. State, said the reduced funding will likely result in a cut of 14 to 15 percent for his campus and UNC. But Woodson said chancellors systemwide had previously been directed by Ross to prepare for a cut of 15 percent, which would result in the loss of 140 to 150 faculty and fewer course sections at N.C. State, he said.

“You just can’t cut that amount of money out of a university budget without affecting the instructional mission,” he said.

Woodson added that he doesn’t foresee a supplemental increase in tuition for students before next fall, but that it would be part of a “longer-term discussion” by the board.

Bill Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care, also gave an update about the UNC Health Care system before the board. Roper said nationwide trends of healthcare consolidation will continue in the future, potentially resulting in five or six healthcare organizations controlling all of the medical services in the state.

He said UNC Health Care should seek to become one of these major providers by expanding some services to better serve citizens in the state rather than selling off its components, a reference to WakeMed Health and Hospitals’ recent bid to purchase Rex Health Care — a subsidiary of UNC Health Care.

“Our ambition is not to be a whole lot bigger than we are, but we think we are doing very well,” he said. “We don’t want to take a step backwards.”

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