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UNC Board of Governors eyes progress, strategic plan

In a time of change, the June meeting of the UNC-system Board of Governors emphasized continued progress.

“It’d be easy to dwell on the trials, but that’d be a mistake,” said board chairman Peter Hans during the open session of the full board meeting Friday. “It would miss the resilience of this system. It’d also miss the fact that this is a period of progress.”

Friday was the last meeting board member Hans, whose current term on the board of governors ends in 2015, presided over as chairman. John Fennebresque will succeed Hans as the board chairman, who is elected to two-year terms by the other board members.

Fennebresque’s term will officially begin July 1 — which also marks the start of the new fiscal year, by when the state budget must be finalized.

Charles Perusse, UNC-system chief operating officer, said for the first time in many years, funding for higher education has not been contentious in state budget deliberations.

“We’re budget dust,” Perusse said in the committee on budget and finance Thursday.

He said the system is following only a few provisions that vary between the N.C. Senate, N.C. House and Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposals. On the whole, differences are minor.

The proposals from the N.C. Senate and the N.C. House allow the UNC system to determine out-of-state tuition rates — provided the system still raises an estimated $27.2 million, the equivalent of budget cuts mandated last year, from tuition increases.

The full board voted Friday to enact out-of-state increases of 11.7 percent at three system schools, which have previously been mandated by the state legislature to increase out-of-state tuition by 12.3 percent for 2014-15.

The 11.7 percent tuition increase would affect out-of-state students at UNC-CH. Pending the finalized state budget, the modified rate results in an increase of $3,300 instead of $3,469 for UNC-CH out-of-state tuition.

Andrew Powell, UNC-CH student body president, said he will keep fighting for lower out-of-state tuition during the legislature’s long session in the fall.

"I think having an 11.7 percent increase instead of a 12.3 percent increase goes not very far at all," he said. “We knew it’d be an uphill battle. It’s a very tough situation.”

UNC-CH originally requested an out-of-state tuition increase of $700, a 2.5 percent increase.

Robert Nunnery, who is graduating from UNC-Pembroke in fall 2014, attended the meeting as the 2013-14 president of the UNC-system Association of Student Government. The ASG president works with the board as a non-voting member.

Nunnery said the board’s hands were tied on further minimizing out-of-state tuition increases due to the state legislature.

“It’s still going to be a hot topic issue,” he said. “Any decrease is always welcome, but is this a serious response to a serious issue?”

Earlier this year, the system trimmed its budget request by $74 million after its original request, a budget increase of $288 million, was rejected.

UNC-system President Tom Ross updated the board Thursday on new policies working toward the system's 5-year strategic plan, adopted last year.

“We’re not going to throw up our hands and say we’re not going to do anything because we didn’t get the money we need,” Ross said.

The plan is divided into five goals: degree attainmentacademic qualityservice to the statemaximizing efficiencies and future fundraising.

“The plan has set a new direction for the state,” Hans said in his closing address Friday. 

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“Again, not everything is perfect, but we’re making progress.”

Senior writer Jane Wester contributed reporting.

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