CORRECTION: The original version of this story stated that the current cost of in-state undergraduate tuition was $7,008. Current in-state tuition is $5,128. The cost of tuition and fees combined is $7,008. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
UNC administrators discussed Thursday the possibility of raising tuition by nearly 40 percent in the next two to four years.
The tuition and fee advisory task force met Thursday to discuss what form a tuition increase above the UNC system’s mandated 6.5 percent cap would take.
Although the cap has not been officially lifted by the system’s Board of Governors, Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost, said the UNC General Administration sent a letter this week giving system schools permission to consider temporarily lifting the 6.5 percent cap on tuition increases.
“People are talking now (at the General Administration), and we’re just hearing things trickle down,” said Student Body President Mary Cooper, who is also a member of the task force. “All of this was complete speculation.”
Initial proposals presented at the meeting suggest a total increase of $2,800 for in-state undergraduates in a span of two to four years. This would represent an increase of 40 percent for the current in-state tuition of $5,128.
The cap on tuition has been set at 6.5 percent for all UNC-system schools since 2006, and the Board of Governors decided to maintain the cap last year. But the board provided wiggle room for universities to propose an increase that exceeds the cap if tuition is the only viable funding source.
Universities’ tuition proposals are also required by the board to keep tuition and fee rates within the bottom quarter of their peer institutions.
But a gradual 40 percent tuition increase could push these parameters, placing UNC-CH closer to the cost of its more expensive peer institutions.
The University of Virginia — a peer institution of UNC-CH — charges in-state undergraduate students $11,794.
The letter also stated that campuses should consider phasing large increases in over a multi-year period and that the 6.5 percent cap would be re-instated following the completion of this period.
Some task force members were advocates for implementing the $2,800 increase over a four-year span.
But others said a more immediate increase of a $1,400 hike per academic year is needed during the next two years in order to respond to economic pressures facing the University.
Carney said six of the 17 UNC campuses have considered requesting tuition increases of more than 6.5 percent.
He said the need for higher tuition stems from system-wide budget cuts, which total more than $1 billion during the last five years.
Sallie Shuping-Russell, a Board of Trustees member, said the increase would help fill a $20 million gap in the University’s budget.
In June, t he N.C. General Assembly cut $414 million from the UNC-system budget. The 15.6 percent cut to the system has caused universities to eliminate vital resources, such as counseling
services, course offerings and about 3,000 faculty positions.
“In order to sustain the value of a UNC degree, the University itself must be sustained,” Shuping-Russell said.
Income generated by a tuition increase could help maintain UNC’s reputation as a world-renowned university, he said.
While it was recommended that in-state tuition be increased, members of the task force said fee increases for out-of-state undergraduates should only increase by the set 6.5 percent.
Stephen Farmer, vice provost and director of undergraduate admissions, said increasing tuition for out-of-state undergraduates might affect UNC’s ability to attract high-quality students nationwide.
The task force will meet in two weeks to continue discussion.
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