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UNC-system president stands by 10-percent parameters for tuition increase proposals

UNC-system President Thomas Ross said he will stand by the tuition increase parameters he set last week despite dissenting opinions from some students and administrators.

Ross, who plans to recommend tuition increase proposals to members of the system’s Board of Governors by the end of the month, reiterated at a press conference Friday that he does not support tuition and fee increases that exceed 10 percent.

Ross’ parameters rule out several tuition increase proposals that have already been submitted to the board.

“I’m certainly open to talking to the folks at any of our institutions,” he said at a press conference on Friday. “But I’ve given it a lot of thought and I feel comfortable with it.”

The state’s biennium budget projects another $9 to $10 million in cuts for next year, and Ross said the looming cut is one of the reasons he’s struggling to come up with a tuition increase recommendation.

The system has already taken a net reduction of $482 million in funding for campuses in the last four years, which has resulted in fewer course sections and larger class sizes for students.

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the board, said she hopes the 32-member board can find a reasonable compromise on tuition increases, which she hopes will remain low.

“I’m still hopeful that it will be under 9 percent,” Gage said.

“I think (Ross) is still playing with the whole thing and trying to come up with the lowest amount that will meet the basic needs that the campuses have right now.”

The N.C. General Assembly, which will review and make the final decision on the board’s tuition proposals, will meet for a “short session” of six weeks this spring.

Because of the legislature’s time constraints, Gage said she’s not expecting any extra funding for the UNC system.

“What we’re really doing now is deciding what we’re going to have to have to just hold our own for the next couple of years,” she said. “Hopefully, by then the economy will improve and there may be more hope to get more funding.”

Despite Gage and Ross’ stance on tuition and fee increases, Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost for UNC-CH, said Thursday the University’s Board of Trustees will continue to seek approval of its proposed tuition increase from the Board of Governors.

And Chairman of the Board of Trustees Wade Hargrove said he would work with Chancellor Holden Thorp, Carney and Ross to review the University’s proposal.

UNC-CH’s tuition increase proposal, which was authored by Carney, would have raised tuition by $2,800, or 40 percent, during the next five years. At the Board of Governors meeting Thursday, Ross also said he would not support any tuition proposals that applied to more than two years.

As Carney continues to show support for higher tuition increases, a system-wide, student-led coalition is calling Ross’ 10 percent cap unconstitutional.

“While this is an improvement, it is still well above the 6.5 percent state mandated cap,” states a press release from the group, called N.C. Defend Education.

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