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Board of Governors to consider UNC’s 15.6 tuition increase proposal

UNC-system President Thomas Ross might recommend lower-than-expected tuition increases today, following weeks of protest from students and former administrators.

The system’s Board of Governors will begin discussing tuition proposals submitted by school administrators who claim the significant increase is needed to maintain a high quality of education.

But many board members say that while they understand the need for revenue, they are still hesitant to approve the increases.

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the board, said the board will focus on Ross’ proposals, which are not expected to be as hefty as the campus proposals.

“What we’re going to be looking at is what the president recommends and that could be very different from what the campuses have asked for,” she said.

“I would be surprised if the president recommended increases that were as aggressive as some of our campuses.”

UNC-CH’s Board of Trustees approved in November a tuition increase of 15.6 percent for next year. This proposal, which was met with disapproval from Student Body President Mary Cooper and several other students, has been submitted to the board.

Other UNC-system schools are also proposing tuition increases above the mandated 6.5 percent cap.

A new Four-Year Tuition Plan approved by the UNC-system Board of Governors last year maintained a 6.5 percent cap on tuition increases, but a clause in the plan permitted universities to propose one-time increases above the cap if they justified a need to “catch up” to the tuition and fees of their public peer institutions.

Despite the clause, Gage said she would prefer that school’s stay within the tuition cap.

“At the same time I understand that when you have $400 million in cuts campuses have an erosion of quality.”

Tomorrow’s discussion on tuition will not come without interference from students, who say their voices have not been heard and from several former members of the board, who say the tuition increase proposals are far too high.

“The concern we’re hearing from students right now is that their voices weren’t heard at the campus level,” Gage said. “I will examine that process to make sure each campus is inclusive of student input, but my sense is that the process is in place but the students input is coming too late, when the chancellor and trustees have already determined the best path.”

Cooper said she thinks the Association of Student Governments — a group of student representatives from each UNC-system school — needs to play a larger role in the process.

“This is an issue that isn’t just affecting Chapel Hill students. It’s affecting everyone,” she said.

“The mechanism to express the student voice is through ASG.”

The late 1970’s chairman of the board, Bill Johnson and about 20 fellow board members have also raised concern about the tuition increase proposals.

Johnson sent a petition to Gage earlier this week, urging the board to reject the tuition increase proposals and to instead look into alternate forms of revenue.

Some board members have said that Johnson’s opinion will be factored into their decision.

But a state funding cut of 15.6 percent, or $414 million, prompted universities to eliminate about 3,000 filled positions and hundreds of course sections last year.

And Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost at UNC-CH, said he stands by his tuition increase proposal of 40 percent spanning the next five years.

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“The condition the University finds itself in is very different from where it was just five years ago,” he said. “I’ve had conversations with seniors who are having a hard time finding classes this semester and that really bothers me. That’s one thing I need to fix along with faculty salaries.”

The board is expected to reach its final decision on tuition increases in February. It will then go to the N.C. General Assembly for approval.