Immediately following the policy change, UNC’s 20.9 percent allotment for need-based student aid dropped to the minimum amount of 15 percent of the university’s tuition revenue.
Despite the drop, Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid at UNC, said overall, students do not bear the brunt of the financial burden.
“Institutions find a way to pay for what they care about,” Ort said.
She said that although UNC student borrowing has only modestly increased, UNC remains below the national average for student debt.
North Carolina State University has expanded its work-study program by 200 student employment opportunities to ease student debts.
“While the university was not authorized to allocate additional funds to need-based financial aid, funds were invested to allow students more opportunities to work in on-campus student employment positions,” Krista Domnick, director of scholarships and financial aid at N.C. State, said in an email.
In addition to increasing work-study opportunities, N.C. State raised overall tuition in order to maintain financial aid contributions.
Eric Houck, associate professor at the UNC School of Education, said until students refuse to pay higher tuition fees, there is little incentive for college administrators to decrease them.
“Colleges don’t really function in a free market system,” he said.
Domnick said in order to compensate for the tuition increase, students should take out loans and budget more cautiously.
“We advise students to be as frugal as possible when making decisions about their living arrangements and spending habits,” Domnick said.
N.C. State has encouraged students to improve financial literacy through work with programs like Dollars and Sense, a new N.C. State initiative.
Potential increases in student debt will always factor into a university’s retention rate, Domnick said. N.C. State has made additional efforts to reach out to students concerned by the process.
“Staff in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and across campus were sensitive to the impact to students and worked hard to provide comprehensive counseling and information so that students were aware of all their options,” she said.
Domnick said she remains confident about the future provision of financial aid and expects the cap and freeze policy to be reviewed in the next BOG tuition plan.
“It is presumable that sustainability of the current plan will be evaluated along that timeline,” she said.