Mariah Earle, a sophomore psychology major, almost didn’t return to UNC-Chapel Hill this fall.
She and hundreds of other students at UNC-system schools are struggling with tuition payments this year due to economic obstacles.
Earle said student loan debt, high tuition, and the stress of having a job while in college led her to consider attending community college instead of returning to UNC-CH.
At other system schools, students have already decided that returning to college in the fall is not feasible.
Steve Roberson, dean of undergraduate studies at UNC-Greensboro, said 1,450 supposedly returning students had not registered for classes as of Aug. 7.
Roberson said 950 students didn’t register for classes last year. He said the students, after being contacted by the school, mainly cited economic reasons for not returning.
Akua Matherson, interim associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University, said the college is assisting 400 students who have not registered yet due to financial concerns.
Matherson said 80 percent of students at N.C. A&T receive need-based financial aid. According to the U.S. News & World Report, 76.3 percent of UNC-G students receive need-based financial aid.
Roberson said the recession, increasing tuition rates and decreasing federal Pell Grant awards are all impacting students.
“There is a perfect storm of economic woe for students,” he said.
Last year, the UNC-system Board of Governors approved a system wide 8.8 percent tuition increase.
“This extra $400 or $500 might make an extreme difference for some students,” Roberson said.
He said there should be more academic support for students struggling to pay for college, such as supplemental instruction, counseling and tutoring.
“Economic status has an enormous impact on college success,” he said.
He and Matherson said changes to the U.S. Pell Grant program are also impacting students.
The number of semesters students can use the federal grant, which gives a maximum of $5,550 a year for full-time students, was reduced this year from 18 to 12.
Matherson said N.C. A&T is helping students and parents figure out other options for paying for college.
Students have the option to defer tuition payments for a few months, and administrators plan to expand work-study opportunities, she said.
Roberson said UNC-G’s faculty is banding together to reach out to students to improve retention.
“If we’re ever to do anything to positively impact economic stratification and poverty, schools like UNC-G have to be successful in working with our population,” he said.
UNC-CH’s advising website states that students who are considering withdrawing from school before the eight-week drop deadline must meet with an adviser or dean and submit an application for withdrawal.
Christopher Derickson, assistant provost and University registrar, said the University will not have the number of students who withdrew until Sept. 4.
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