The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 28th

NC tuition has risen at double US rate

Tuition hikes nationally are slowing, according to a new report — but in North Carolina, tuition has gone up over the past five years at double the national average rate.

According to the report, released last Thursday by College Board, in-state tuition and fees at North Carolina’s public four-year institutions in the 2014-15 school year were between $6,000 and $7,000 — which is the 10th lowest in the country. The national average is more than $9,000.

But tuition in the state has increased more than 30 percent over the last five years, while the national average is a 17 percent increase.

“It’s good that prices are not skyrocketing quite as fast as they were, but they’re still going up,” said Rob Schofield, policy director of N.C. Policy Watch. “College is still unaffordable for too many people.”

College Board also released a companion report showing students are borrowing less money to pay tuition.

“By putting the two reports out, we’re trying to produce a picture about the prices that students face and the net prices that they pay as well as the student aid they receive each year,” said Jennifer Ma, co-author of the reports.

“Trends in College Pricing” examined the sticker price of attending college and calculated a net price that students end up paying. The report found that though tuition prices are still on the rise, the increases are beginning to slow.

“Many students receive grant aid that does not have to be repaid so the actual cost that students pay is the sticker price. So we take the price after grant aid and taking educational tax benefits,” Ma said.

“Trends in Student Aid” found that the annual amount students are borrowing to pay for school has decreased for the third year in a row.

As the economy improves, Ma said, families have higher incomes and job prospects are improving, so they do not need to borrow as much money to pay for college. States are also able to give universities more funding, she said, thus lowering students’ tuition bills.

“We’re cautiously optimistic and I think that if you look at historical data, you can see that usually when the economy is experiencing a downturn, especially in the public sector, tuition prices rise again,” Ma said.

But as far as North Carolina, Schofield said he’s worried that leadership in the state legislature is moving away from its commitment to affordable higher education.

“I think that we will have a less prepared workforce, that we will have a less educated and modern and thinking population,” he said. “I think in general, North Carolina will be shooting itself in the foot.”

Jenna Robinson, director of outreach at the Pope Center, said while increases are beginning to slow, she doesn’t think there will be a permanent slowdown in university spending.

“I’m hopeful, but unless universities and boards consciously and deliberately change their behavior, the trend will always be increasing prices,” she said.


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