University administrators approved a plan to raise in-state tuition by 15.6 percent after a heated debate Monday, leaving administrators and students alike dissatisfied.
And despite the fact that there is now a resolution ready to be presented to the Board of Trustees, the immediate future of tuition hikes is still up in the air.
Even those who supported the approved plan, presented by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney, voiced strong reservations.
Sallie Shuping-Russell, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees’ budget, finance and audit committee, said she “vehemently” disliked both the plans presented by Carney and Student Body President Mary Cooper.
Cooper, who proposed increasing in-state tuition by 6.4 percent, supported filling the outstanding budget gap with a two-year supplemental hike of 5 percent for incoming in-state students.
Carney’s plan levies a $2,800 increase on all in-state students over five years. It would also increase tuition for out-of-state students by 6.5 percent — $1,622 for undergraduates and $1,460 for graduate students.
Ultimately, the tuition and fee advisory task force chose to approve Carney’s plan by a vote of 9 to 5, with every student on the committee voting against it.
The proposal now moves to the Board of Trustees, where trustees say every option to cope with the more than $100 million in state funding cuts — including Cooper’s proposal — is on the table.
“It’s possible that either of (the proposals), or a combination of them, or something that’s different from their proposals will come up,” said Wade Hargrove, chairman of the board.
“As a practical matter, I suspect that the focus will be on those two proposals, but I wouldn’t want to foreclose any board member from coming forward with his or her own proposal.”
‘Lesser of the two evils’
The task force’s Monday meeting was filled to capacity with student leaders, administrators, staff and protesters who participated in the conversation — which lasted two hours.
Administrators wavered back and forth, debating whether Carney’s proposal would generate enough revenue to offset state funding cuts.
“This proposal won’t meet all our needs but it will meet the critical ones,” Carney said.
But the nine people who voted in favor of Carney’s proposal didn’t leave confident in the sentiment.
Shuping-Russell said the plan represented “the lesser of the two evils,” but she would have been willing to work on the students’ plan more if she had received it earlier. She said she will review it further before her committee’s Wednesday meeting.
“The chancellor will present (Carney’s proposal), but I’m sure Mary’s will be brought forward also,” she said. “We’ve got to think about it.”
Committee members said Cooper’s administration presented a thorough proposal that took into account something they hadn’t considered — charging freshmen more in tuition.
“Future students are better able to make financial decisions and can better prepare for tuition increases,” Cooper said.
After the meeting, a few protesters who had vocally supported Cooper lingered in the South Building lobby and heckled Carney, chanting “shame” until he retreated to his office.
Cooper said she felt the committee gave her proposal serious consideration.
Committee members took issue with charging different tuition levels to students of different classes, and some said it didn’t create enough revenue from tuition.
Hargrove said he was impressed by Cooper’s proposal, but in the end, it didn’t go far enough in generating high revenue while being fair to all students.
“The concept of having a different level of tuition depending on whether you are here now or coming next year creates a great deal of issues,” he said. “That’s not to say that the justification for that is without merit, but the challenge is to weigh all of these options and try to fashion a fair and reasonable approach.”
Hargrove added that discussion about Cooper’s proposal isn’t over and that any board member can bring it up against Carney’s proposal — which he said won’t generate enough revenue either.
“I’m worried that (Carney’s) proposal is too modest,” he said in the meeting.
Chancellor Holden Thorp will present Carney’s proposal to the board Wednesday for consideration and a vote. If passed, it still has to be approved by the UNC-system Board of Governors and then the N.C. General Assembly.
“A proposal that gives us an opportunity to get some more revenue from tuition is the most prudent thing that we can do at this point,” Thorp said.
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