As the UNC system continues to balance state budget cuts and affordability for students, system leaders are looking to build a stable financial model while maintaining the state’s constitutional obligation to keep public higher education costs low.
The last goal laid out in the system’s five-year strategic plan, the fifth goal hopes to maintain its commitment to providing N.C. students with a “world-class education.”
UNC-system Strategic Plan Series
This is the fifth part of a series examining each of the five goals in the UNC-system’s five-year strategic plan.
Goal one: Degree attainment
Goal two: Academic quality
Goal three: Service to the state
Goal four: Maximizing efficiencies
Goal five: Future fundraising
“Essentially we wanted to ensure an accessible and financially stable university system for the long term, as well as one that meets our historic record for financial stability and affordability,” said Charlie Perusse, the UNC system’s chief operating officer.
With the state still recovering from the financial strain of the recession, the UNC system has seen nearly half a billion dollars erased from its funding since 2011, including about $65 million from its 2013-14 budget.
Consistent cuts have led public universities to rely more on tuition for funding, which contributed to an out-of-state tuition hike for 2014-15 at most system schools — including a 12.3-percent bump at UNC-CH.
In a study of out-of-state tuition rates presented at last month’s UNC-CH Board of Trustees meeting, 58 percent of applicants who were admitted to the University but enrolled at other schools reported that UNC was too expensive.
The strategic plan encourages schools to tap into other revenue sources to reduce the reliance on tuition.
System President Tom Ross said at the Board of Governors’ November meeting that increased private fundraising is one way schools can avoid raising tuition.
Perusse said improving fundraising would help boost the performance and financial stability of the system’s small campuses.
“We’re putting a lot of effort in at our small campuses and minority institutions that did not have as much of a fundraising ability as our larger campuses,” he said.
Perusse said eight of the system schools are in the 50th percentile or better than their peer campuses in fundraising, and the plan aims to raise the level to the 75th percentile.
One specific aim of the plan is the College Foundation of North Carolina, a program designed to simplify college applications in the state. Public and private universities and state education groups have signed on as partners in the foundation.
The portal enables prospective students to apply to community colleges and four-year institutions and learn about financial aid, providing online tools to guide them through the process.
The foundation receives half of its funding from the state and half from federal sources — and the system eventually hopes to allocate $5 million annually in state money to sustain the program as part of the plan.
Steve Brooks, executive director of the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, one of CFNC’s partner organizations, said the foundation has received national acclaim and has put the UNC system ahead of other states.
“We proved that these groups would work together for a common goal,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like it’s unusual, but it is — and it’s really gratifying for me to be a part of it.”
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