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The Daily Tar Heel

Board of Governors to begin tuition conversation

The UNC-system Board of Governors has yet to receive any tuition increase proposals from universities, but members plan to take the first step in the tuition conversation at their meeting today.

Charlie Perusse, vice president for finance for the UNC system, and Bruce Mallette, senior associate vice president for academic and student affairs, are expected to present information about the board’s policies concerning tuition and financial aid even though board members will not actually vote on tuition increase proposals until February.

The presentation will inform new members about the board’s recent actions, such as the adoption of a new Four Year Tuition Plan last year that maintained a 6.5 percent cap on tuition increases, said Mallette in an email.

The plan also included a “catch up” clause that left wiggle room for universities to propose increases above the cap — as long as they remain within the bottom quarter of their public peer institutions’ tuition and fee rates.

UNC’s tuition and fee advisory task force discussed a proposal to increase tuition by 40 percent, or $2,800, during a two-to-four year span last month, which would bring the University’s tuition and fee rates more in line with its peers.

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the board, said questions about UNC’s proposal might be raised despite the educational nature of the report.

“This begins to take the temperature of everyone that will be making the decision,” she said.

University administrators’ discussion of a tuition increase exceeding the cap follows a state funding cut of 15.6 percent, or $414 million, this year. Gage said board members must be wary of the message tuition increases send to the state legislature.

“We have to ramp up our campaigns at the legislature to make sure that we don’t relieve them of their obligation to fund the university,” she said. “Every time we raise tuition in a significant way, it takes the pressure off the General Assembly.”

Jim Woodward, former chancellor of UNC-Charlotte and N.C. State University, will also unveil his final report on unnecessary degree duplication at the meeting.

Woodward began the review of the system’s 2,000 degree programs in April to identify strategies for degree consolidation, but he said administrators already conduct a rigorous program productivity review every two years.

His report includes systemwide guidelines for degree program approval and states that online course offerings will enhance the educational experience for students at a lower cost, he said.

“When we began to develop online activities, every campus sort of did its own thing, as you would expect,” he said. “But … a collection of campus-based policies and procedures, which will vary greatly from campus to campus, does not best serve an online education world.”

Woodward said the bureaucratic hurdles surrounding enrollment in online courses at system schools place an unnecessary burden on students.

But the board must continue to strike a delicate balance between campus autonomy and system control, he said.

“Too much central guidance, too much regulation will not better serve the citizens of North Carolina.”

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