A UNC Charlotte degree likely got more expensive Thursday after trustees recommended a 7.5 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and fees for the 2012-13 school year.
Under the plan, in-state undergraduates would pay $211 more tuition, and out-of-staters would pay an additional $975. The trustees approved an additional $106 in student fees that support athletics, education and technology, student health services and athletic field maintenance. They'd also have to pay an extra $100 "infrastructure fee" to help pay for campus road construction, building repairs and renovations.
The plan must to go the UNC system's Board of Governors - and ultimately state legislators - for approval.
The system requires tuition and fee increases be capped at 6.5 percent. But UNCC was authorized to raise tuition and all fees by as much as $938, using a one-time adjustment to "catch up" to tuition levels at public peer universities across the country.
UNCC chose to raise it by $417, or by 7.5 percent. Chancellor Phil Dubois said the increases are unavoidable.
The last four years, the school has lost $49.2 million in state appropriations - $34 million this year alone. The losses forced UNCC to cut 175 faculty and 110 staff positions, eliminate classes and place larger loads on faculty and staff who haven't received a pay raise in four years, Dubois said.
Since state money for renovations "has dried up," repairs to buildings have gone unmet, he said.
"We're trying to make the best of a bad situation for the students and the university," he said after trustees unanimously approved his recommended hikes. "We can't continue to operate an institution the quality of UNC Charlotte without some increased revenues."
Other campuses' increases
Despite the cuts, UNCC's enrollment continues to build, with roughly 25,300 undergraduate and graduate students - 15,233 from the Charlotte region.
Its tuition has steadily risen in the past five years from $2,461 in 2007-08 to $3,242 for the current school year. After the increases, in-state undergraduates would pay $5,857 in tuition and fees next year, up from $5,440 for the current school year.
The tuition increase would generate $6.7 million, hardly replenishing lost state money. Of that new money, $1.7 million would go for need-based financial aid.
"When you look at our peer institutions, our tuition is still very low," Dubois said. "We didn't come close to pushing tuition to where we were allowed to push it."
UNCC is not the only school placing more of a financial burden on students.
Last month, UNC Chapel Hill trustees voted to raise most students' tuition by at least $2,800 over the next five years, with tuition rising $800 (15.6 percent) next year for in-state undergraduates. Likewise, N.C. State University trustees approved a $330 increase, or 6.4 percent, for in-state undergraduates next year and a 29 percent increase over five years.
Students at UNC Pembroke will pay 7.1 percent more in tuition next year, and at East Carolina University, trustees voted to raise tuition and fees by 9.5 percent for in-state undergraduates and by 9.9 percent for all other students.
UNCC board chairman Gene Johnson said that even with the increases, the university's tuition and fees remain low when compared to other universities around the country of its size and function.
Still, he regrets the school has to look to students for more revenue.
"We have no other choice (than to make the increases). We all know it and understand it and I don't think anybody likes it," Johnson said. "It's just a difficult situation. But this university has done an extraordinary job of managing its way through this crisis."
Kelly Harrold, a junior psychology major, doesn't like the increases but said she understands why they're needed.
For starters, she said she lives in a dorm that is old and full of bugs. And the psychology department is housed in a building that is old and in dire need of repairs.
"Classes have been cut, and so we can't get into classes that we need," Harrold said. "I approve of this infrastructure fee and am glad we're going to be making renovations."
Her roommate, Israel Goheen, a junior English major, transferred from Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem where "core classes were cheaper."
She, too, understands the increases and why renovations need to be made.
And she hopes faculty and staff would get a raise soon.
"We have phenomenal professors here," Goheen said. "I'd like to see them earn what they're worth."