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NC Public Universities Eye Tuition Hikes After 1-year Hiatus

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina public universities want to raise tuition and fees by an average of 4 percent next year and 3.5 percent the following year for undergraduate state residents.

The governing board of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system on Thursday began discussing proposals by each school to raise the two basic costs of attendance. The UNC Board of Governors is expected to approve any increases next month.

“Unfortunately costs go up and we have stretched and stretched and stretched our campuses with cuts and cuts and cuts. So unfortunately the only way to go back and get it is through tuition,” board member Harry Leo Smith Jr. said. “We’re doing everything we can to contain costs.”

The proposals come after the statewide UNC board last year approved no tuition increase for the current 2014-15 academic year. The one-year freeze came after UNC campuses had increased average tuition by 55 percent since 2007-08, before the national recession forced sharper cuts in taxpayer funding of the universities.

America’s 700 public, four-year institutions raised tuition by 4 percent in 2013-14 to about $7,800 for in-state students and by 3 percent to about $17,500 for out-of-state students, according to U.S. Education Department data.

North Carolina’s constitution requires that university education for state residents be as cheap as possible. The UNC system compares each campus’ costs with similar schools around the country. Each North Carolina campus is among the cheapest, a report said.

The statewide average pales in importance to “where you’re going to school and how much you’re paying for your kid to go and what that money is being spent for. That’s the story,” board member Roger Aiken said.

The cost of attending Elizabeth City State University would be the system’s lowest next year at $4,657 despite a proposed $160 increase in tuition and fees. The costliest would be the North Carolina School of the Arts at $8,500 after a $355 increase.

The state’s largest campus, North Carolina State University, could see a $273 increase in tuition and fees, or 3.4 percent, to $8,407. UNC-Chapel Hill could charge an extra $227 in tuition and fees, almost 2.8 percent more, raising costs to $8,334.

East Carolina University, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Pembroke, and Appalachian State University are seeking 5 percent tuition increases, the limit set by the public university system’s board.

Student fees paying for campus athletics, health services, student activities and technology rose about 4 percent this year after two years of 5 percent increases.

The proposed cost increases don’t include a new, $30-a-year campus security fee that the UNC governors are projected to approve in February. The extra fee is needed to prepare school security officers to respond to extreme events like a campus shooting and respond to federal regulations requiring more detailed investigations of alleged sexual assault cases, university system and board members said. UNC-Chapel Hill is involved in a federal investigation into claims the school mishandled and underreported sexual assault cases.

“I hate another fee, but jeez, this is one that should have been done a long time ago,” Smith said.

There were 222,000 students enrolled at UNC campuses last fall, an increase of 1,847 students from the previous fall.

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