UNC board considers tuition freeze for in-state students, hikes for out-of-state students — News and Observer


January 9, 2014

UNC board considers tuition freeze for in-state students, hikes for out-of-state students

By Jane Stancill

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina students at the state’s public universities may get a reprieve from higher tuition next year, but their classmates from out of state will face steep increases.

Next month, the university system’s governing board will vote on a proposed freeze on tuition for students who are North Carolina residents, along with increases averaging 4.2 percent for most fees. If the proposals are approved, in-state undergraduates would pay $5,444 at N.C. Central University and $8,133 at both N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014-15. That includes tuition and fees, but not room, food, books and transportation.

At the same time, out-of-state students could be looking at significantly larger tuition bills.

N.C. State has proposed raising out-of-state tuition by $1,800, or 9.2 percent, for example. If approved by the UNC system’s Board of Governors, out-of-state students at NCSU would pay $23,338 in tuition and fees in 2014-15.

Some of the out-of-state hikes were already set by the legislature last year, which mandated 12.3 percent increases at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. A&T, UNC Wilmington and UNC School of the Arts. Lawmakers enacted 6 percent hikes at 10 other campuses, including East Carolina and N.C. Central universities.

The legislative move was unusual in that it bypassed the Board of Governors, which sets tuition annually for the state’s public universities. On Thursday, UNC officials said they would seek to repeal the legislative increases, because the hikes could negatively affect some universities’ ability to attract talented students from outside North Carolina.

NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson said the university is attracting more out-of-state students because of its growing reputation and its presence on “best buy” lists. Last fall, 16 percent of first-year students were from outside North Carolina.

The higher demand is likely to support a higher price tag, Woodson said.

“We’re recognizing that we’re falling out of line with our peers,” he said. Even with the increase, he said, the rate would fall below most of NCSU’s peers across the country.

But he added, “We are very, very nervous about the price point.”

UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt said the campus conducted market research that showed the 12.3 percent increase could result in a 10 percent reduction in applications from out-of-state and perhaps a 20 percent decrease in those who choose to enroll. Still, the campus Board of Trustees has asked for a 2.5 percent increase on out-of-staters.

It’s unclear whether UNC will succeed in its effort to get the legislature to repeal the hikes.

UNC President Tom Ross said the university system had cut costs and worked to become more efficient. Cost per degree has fallen by 17 percent, even as the number of students enrolled has grown 17 percent, he said.

The board’s chairman, Peter Hans, said holding the line on tuition for North Carolina families makes sense now after several years of increases.

“It’s for the middle class, to give them a break,” Hans said.

Stancill: 919-829-4559