Students protest proposed UNC tuition hike

January 12, 2012 9:57:15 AM PST
The UNC Board of Governors met Thursday to discuss another increase in tuition, but they're facing opposition.

About 25 students showed up to protest any possible hike - saying the cost of higher education in North Carolina is already too high. A small group of the students was allowed in to the meeting.

As they listened, campus leaders outlined the need they see for higher tuition. Some campus leaders say the quality at North Carolina schools is slipping due to state budget cuts. Tuition hike advocates claim they need to raise the cost of classes to restore course selections and academic offerings that were otherwise lost due to budget cuts.

Board members meeting in November wrestled over whether to lift a self-imposed 6.5 percent annual cap on tuition increases to try to keep pace with the more than $1.2 billion in cuts and reversions in state taxpayer support since 2008.

The biggest hit came earlier this year - with a $417 million cut approved for the current fiscal year by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Leaders at the system's 16 universities will make requests for tuition increases in December. Board members are expected to vote early next year.

The average tuition for the system is now $5,274 a year, not including fees, books and living expenses. It is substantially higher at the system's two flagship schools, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

UNC-Chapel Hill wants to charge students an extra $2,800 during the next five years. North Carolina State University wants to raise tuition by 9 percent next year and more in future years. East Carolina University, North Carolina Central University and other campuses also want increases of more than the 6.5 percent limit put in place several years ago.

Some say rising costs are pushing students away. Overall enrollment on the 16 campuses decreased by 1,422 students, or less than 1 percent, last fall compared to fall 2010. The bulk of the enrollment drop came among master's degree students. Their numbers thinned by 1,256 this fall and undergraduate enrollment fell by 476 students, the report said. Doctoral students and those seeking professional degrees like law and medicine increased by 310.

Citing those statistics, some former UNC Board of Governors members said they disagree with increasing tuition. About two dozen signed a letter rejecting the idea.

"We cannot responsibly shift an increasing burden in the form of ever-rising tuition and fee charges on to the students and their parents," the former members' statement said.

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