UNC board should listen to chairman, say no to tuition increase | StarNewsOnline.com
Published: Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:21 p.m.
It is refreshing to read that the chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors has said he opposes an undergraduate tuition increase for the system next year. Rising costs may not have knocked UNC-Chapel Hill from its spot atop Kiplinger’s annual “Best Value in Public Colleges” list, but they threaten to put the cost of a four-year state university out of reach for many students.
The Triangle Business Journal reported on Thursday that Peter Hans, chairman of the board that oversees the UNC system, advocates putting the brakes on tuition increases that have been imposed to offset a portion of the state cuts to public higher education in North Carolina.
“Tuition in North Carolina is still low compared to other states, but I’ll say it again, the middle class needs a break,” the publication quoted him as saying. “As such, we need a combination of continued public investment and more efficient university operations to keep tuition low and the quality of education high.” Let’s hope that Hans can persuade his fellow board members
Hans noted that where state money once made up about 80 percent of state university budgets, it’s now down to about two-thirds.
Kiplinger, a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice based in Washington, named UNC-CH its top public university value for 2014, besting a competitive group that includes the University of Virginia, the University of Florida, the University of Michigan and California’s two best-known state universities, UCLA and UC-Berkeley, among other contenders. Low cost and financial aid to help students afford college were two of the numerous factors considered. Also making the top-100 list were UNC Wilmington, at No. 28; N.C. State University, the School of the Arts and UNC-Asheville.
That’s good representation, and a testament to the state’s long history of striving to put higher education within reach of more students. But over the past couple of decades the N.C. General Assembly has funded a smaller percentage of university operations, leaving the UNC system to raise tuition to cover the gap. In doing so, the state has pushed aside its constitutional mandate to make access to public universities free “as far as practicable.”
At UNCW, in-state students will get a slight break next year. Trustees voted to increase student fees slightly and raise room and board rates, but no tuition increase is expected for residents of North Carolina. The story is not the same for out-of-state students, who will pay considerably more, courtesy of a legislative mandate.
So far, financial aid has filled the gap for many UNC students, but many have dropped out or reduced class load, which in turn delays graduation. Hans knows the system cannot sustain itself if this trend continues. Universities have been forced to rethink much of what they have done for years with an eye on efficiency, and that is a positive development. But students and their families cannot continue to shoulder the burden.
One reason North Carolina’s universities rank as “best values” is the philosophy that a college education should be accessible to anyone who meets admission standards. We hope that lawmakers will take Hans’ advice and work with the board of governors to keep costs low and to improve our well-respected state universities.