The system’s General Administration will work with the University to ensure its tuition and fees remain below the bottom quarter as the rates of its peers fluctuate, he said.
Yet remaining within the bottom quarter does not guarantee that the proposal will be approved by the board, said Brad Wilson, emeritus member and former chairman of the board.
“Just because you have the headroom within the lower quartile does not mean, by definition, that the Board of Governors would accept it,” he said. “Each proposal is judged on its own merits.”
Wilson said a number of other factors will influence the board’s decision, including the historical role of tuition as a secondary source of revenue to state appropriations. The state’s constitution says that a public university education should be free for state residents “as far as practicable.”
An “aggressive” proposal from UNC to increase tuition might also embolden other campuses in the system to follow suit, undermining the goals of predictability and stability outlined in the board’s new tuition plan, he said.
“Any time you have a policy and you start making more exceptions, then the exception becomes the rule,” he said.
Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the board, said the loss of more than $1 billion in state funding for the system during the last five years must be balanced with the state’s economic woes. A cut in state funding of 15.6 percent, or $414 million, this year prompted universities to eliminate about 3,000 filled positions and hundreds of course sections.
“We can talk about keeping our competitive edge, and we can frame each campus’ tuition in the context of their public peers,” Gage said.
After the board votes on tuition increase proposals in February, the N.C. General Assembly will receive recommendations from the board for granting final approval to tuition rates.
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said she would vote for a substantial tuition increase at UNC to ensure that the system’s flagship maintained its academic quality and ability to compete with its peers.
“Without the General Assembly appropriating funding to support education, then there’s little choice but to raise tuition,” she said. “I can understand why the University is doing that.”
Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said that any tuition increase above the cap would receive scrutiny from legislators.
Universities must also focus more on implementing online courses and restructuring administration to be more efficient in the delivery of instruction, he said.
“Those opportunities for savings and for greater efficiency need to be fully reviewed and to every extent possible fully implemented before additional increases are contemplated.”
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