RALEIGH — The UNC-system Board of Governors began setting the course for the system’s tuition and fee increases until 2019 on Thursday.
The new four-year tuition plan, which would begin in 2015 if passed, would cap tuition and fee increases for in-state students at 5 percent annually.
The proposed plan applies to both in-state undergraduate and graduate tuition rates. It would also continue the mandate that in-state undergraduate tuition and fee rates remain in the bottom quartile of public peer institutions.
Out-of-state tuition rates are expected to be “market driven,” as well as reflect the cost of a quality education. Campuses must set a goal for tuition and fee rates to be at or above the third quartile of their public peers.
An out-of-state tuition increase for next year at most system schools — 12.3 percent at UNC-CH — was approved by the N.C. General Assembly.
The current annual cap for in-state tuition and fee increases is 6.5 percent. But system President Tom Ross said in August that he supported a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates.
A 5-percent cap would not be set in stone — the board can make changes each year, depending on increases or reductions in state appropriations.
The system has seen nearly half a billion dollars erased from its state funding since 2011.
Some members voiced concern about keeping UNC-system schools affordable.
“We could raise tuition 5 percent a year … and that seems like a lot,” member John Fennebresque said. “I wonder if it makes our product too expensive for the families that don’t qualify for financial aid — the middle class.”
Board Chairman Peter Hans told members that affordability for the middle class must be a priority.
The four-year plan is meant to stabilize tuition increases and provide some predictability for students and families.
After the policy discussion, former Gov. Jim Hunt addressed the board members, stressing how vital the UNC system is for economic development of the state.
“I hope you will tell the folks downtown that we have enough cuts,” he told the board. “It’s time now to increase the funding for the university system. I don’t want these other states — which are now beginning to do that more than we are — I don’t want them to get ahead of us.”
The board met for committee meetings at N.C. State University on Thursday. The full board will reconvene today at 9 a.m.
But before the board reconvenes, students and activists will be protesting member David Powers’ place on the board.
Chris Stella, a UNC-Greensboro senior, said Powers is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council and on the board of Reynolds American, a tobacco company.
“We feel that his ties to human rights violations that occur within Reynolds American’s supply chain and a far right-wing lobbying group should disqualify him as far as making decisions for public education,” he said, adding that UNC-CH student group Alianza, which is in solidarity with farmworkers, has asked to meet with Powers before, and he declined.
Powers’ term expires in 2015.
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