Striking a Balance

niswander1

At the Nov. 30 meeting of the ECU Board of Trustees, ECU vice chancellor for administration and finance Rick Niswander explained that students are having to pay a higher percentage of tuition costs as state appropriations continue to decline. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

 

ECU Board of Trustees recommends tuition, fee increases for 2013-14

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

The East Carolina University Board of Trustees unanimously recommended tuition increases Nov. 30 for undergraduate and graduate students for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The board is requesting:

–    A $201 increase for undergraduate in-state students, bringing the total to $3,959;
–    A $214 increase for graduate in-state students, to $4,223;
–    A $500 increase for undergraduate out-of-state students, to $18,072;
–    A $700 increase for graduate out-of-state students, to $16,540.

Tuition for students at the Brody School of Medicine and ECU School of Dental Medicine is also likely to change. The board requested an increase of $899 to medical tuition and $2,087 for dental.

All tuition and fee recommendations must be approved by the UNC Board of Governors.

The increases are expected to produce $5.9 million in revenue to pay for classroom instruction and infrastructure and student support operations at ECU. Of that sum, $1.2 million will go toward need-based financial aid for undergraduate students, and another $500,000 will pay for merit-based financial aid for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Dr. Rick Niswander, vice chancellor for administration and finance, explained that the cost of education has increased very little over time, but the percentage of that cost paid by state appropriations has continually declined over the last decade. The portion of ECU revenue generated by state funds had decreased by 5 percent over the last five years.

“The state’s budget is always under pressure and higher education has shared in cuts,” Niswander said. “In order to provide a quality education, we need highly-skilled professors and strong student support systems. And that costs money.”

Most universities in the UNC system are expected to request raising tuition costs this year. Amounts approved earlier by the UNC Board of Governors range from a $100 increase at N.C. Central University to a $600 increase at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Niswander said cost of attendance at ECU remains competitive despite the increases.

“It’s still a great deal,” he said.

ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said that tuition rates must strike a balance between the cost of retaining great faculty and the need to keep education affordable.

“If (students) don’t come or if they leave after one year because they can’t afford it…we’re not being successful,” Ballard told board members.

Proposed increases to ECU undergraduate and graduate tutition fall below the 6.5 percent cap set by the UNC Board of Governors. The Board of Governors also already approved the $201 increase for in-state undergraduate students in February as part of a five-year plan review. They are scheduled to consider the entire 2013-14 tuition and fees recommendation from all UNC system institutions in February 2013.

Increases to student fees were also approved at the Board of Trustees meeting. Members unanimously approved a $40 increase to the education and technology fee as well as a $3 increase in graduation fees.

A $30 increase to the athletics fee passed 12-1, with ECU Student Government Association President Justin Davis voting in opposition. The SGA Senate –which reviews all tuition and fee proposals annually – supported a $10 increase and was willing to compromise at $15.

Davis said that while he personally supports athletics, he worries about the message the decision might send to the student body.

“It is going to debilitate us…in receiving (student) input,” he said. “We have a hard enough time getting students to participate.”

In committee discussion about tuition and fees Thursday, board members expressed concern that the student survey opposing an athletics fee increase was not scientific or representative, and only included 2,000 responses from a student body of more than 27,000.

Board member Ken Chalk said the $30 increase originally requested by athletics staff was important for strategic growth and keeps costs about average compared with other North Carolina institutions. Chalk said funding will also be needed as ECU football moves from Conference USA to the BIG EAST, and the university seeks a home for 18 other varsity sports teams.

“That’s money that makes us more competitive,” said ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland. “It makes a difference in who we are today and who we’re going to be tomorrow.”