Since 2018, Kenan-Flagler Business School students have paid a Performance Enhancement Fee aimed at enhancing the Undergraduate Business Program and providing resources for students such as academic advising and global scholarships.
The fee has remained the same since it was established four years ago, but that could be changing soon.
Kenan-Flagler is looking to potentially increase the fee, known colloquially as the “business school fee,” for incoming students as early as the fall semester of 2023 due to the program’s expansion and enrollment increases.
According to a statement from Jordan Hale, assistant dean of the Undergraduate Business Program, Kenan-Flagler's major enrollment has grown by 11 percent and minor enrollment by 66 percent as of 2022.
“We have shared that PEF has made it possible to increase the size of our staff to serve (students) in all aspects of the UBP, most notably in enhanced career coaching, global programs, scholarships, wellness and student engagement programs,” he said in the statement.
Business majors currently pay $1,000 each semester, for a total of $2,000 every year, according to Hale’s statement. The proposed increase would raise yearly rates for incoming juniors by $1,000. Business minors have previously paid $1,000 per year, potentially increasing to $1,500.
The fee is waived for students who qualify for need-based aid, which will continue after the proposed increase.
Shimul Melwani is the associate dean of the Undergraduate Business Program. She said there is also a secondary process for any student going through personal financial hardship.
Hale explained that inflation from 2018 to 2022 also affected the program, with increased costs for UBP-wide events and study abroad programming.
This month, the program sought feedback from business and pre-business students by organizing town halls, student surveys and social media posts about the fee increase. Hale said \ that students shared significant concerns, but seemed to understand the need after learning more about it.
“In our interactions with students, most have asked why the fee is needed, how the fee is being used, whether this is the right time to increase it, who will pay it and support for those who may not have the resources to cover the fee,” Hale said in the statement. “They also highlight the importance of holding the school accountable for how the fee is being used.”
Melwani said the program has not had as much student feedback as they had hoped, with only about 100 survey responses out of 800 current students and around 1,000 applicants.
”Of the students who've taken it, we’ve had about 10 percent who say they're supportive and another 15 percent who say they don't care one way or the other. And then of course, there's a significant number who are not specifically enthusiastic or supportive of it,” Melwani said.
Sophie Cho, co-president of the UBP’s Community, Equity and Inclusion Board, said that while she understands the potential increase, the proposal’s timing was not ideal due to the recent tensions at Kenan-Flagler.
“This increase will help fund really necessary staff who work directly for students, but I think the manner and the timing of all of this was really unfortunate,” Cho said.
Cho said that the general consensus she gathered was that students see the need for the fee increase to remain competitive with other undergraduate business programs.
However, Cho also said that there needs to be a maximization of resources, so the fee is worth it to students.
“Also, just an emphasis on expanding community equity and inclusion matters within the program so that even if the resources are there, our students feel like they belong to the program that they can comfortably pursue these resources that they are ultimately paying for,” Cho said.
While the proposal was presented to two separate advisory committees, Melwani said it will have to be approved by both the UNC Board of Trustees and Board of Governors before it is enacted.
“It is, at the end of the day, just a proposal. It's a multi-step process that goes through many different bodies at UNC and then at the system as well,” Melwani said.
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