Despite vehement student opposition, UNC administrators approved Thursday a 15.6 percent tuition hike proposal for in-state students.
With the exception of Student Body President Mary Cooper, the UNC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the proposal that would increase in-state students’ tuition by $2,800 during the next five years.
Cooper asked the board to postpone the decision until December. She said a delay would help students and administrators work together to create a more modest proposal. But her motion to delay the vote failed.
Administrators supported the significant tuition hike, saying it was the only way to improve the University’s faculty retention rates. During the last two years, more than 50 percent of UNC faculty members who have received offers from other institutions chose to leave.
Students speaking at the board meeting said the tuition hike would diminish the University’s ability to attract talented and diverse students.
“If we raise tuition we are going to lose students,” said junior Cornell Jordan, who spoke on behalf of students at the meeting. “What is a faculty member without a diverse group of students?”
Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost, said tuition hikes will not be the only avenue administrators will explore in an attempt to offset budget cuts.
“We have a lot to do. We are not asking students to do all of this themselves,” he said. “We will certainly be asking the state for help.”
But while UNC administrators say they have no choice but to propose tuition increases to protect their faculty, N.C. Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, said the substantial proposal might not be necessary.
“The University only gets about one-third of the revenue from the state so the other two-thirds they are getting from other sources,” he said.
“I would look at those other sources for revenues other than just solely looking at the state and expecting the state to pick up the pad for whatever raises they want to give out.”
Although at odds for much of the meeting, students and administrators did agree that state legislators should be doing more for the University.
“I don’t think that the legislature has heard from the students,” trustee Alston Gardner said. “I don’t think they understand the significant quality of our students, and I don’t think they understand the needs of the middle class who are most affected by the tuition proposal.”
All UNC-system schools’ tuition increase proposals — including UNC-CH — will be submitted to the system’s General Administration by Dec. 9. They will then go to the UNC-system Board of Governors, which will recommend finalized proposals to the N.C. General Assembly.
While campus administrators across the UNC system are proposing tuition hikes in order to offset the $414 million that was cut from the system in July, future cuts are already looming.
“We know that there are some structural shortfall issues with the 2012-13 budget,” said Charles Perusse, UNC-system vice president for finance.
“Medicaid is underfunded by a couple million, and $250 million of federal money is going away from the public school system. The legislature is already talking about how to cover that.”
Last year’s 15.6 percent budget cut to the system prompted many schools to eliminate resources, such as counseling services, course offerings and about 3,000 faculty positions.
“Obviously, we live in an era right now of fiscal uncertainty and we know that campus balance sheets are impacted by several areas,” Perusse said. “As there’s pressures on state appropriations and federal money, that’s why you look at potentially more tuition because they all impact the bottom line.”
State & National Editor Isabella Cochrane contributed reporting.
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