Editorial: Combination of cuts and tuition hikes bode ill for UNC

Mar. 29, 2013 @ 11:32 AM

A fiscal triple-whammy lurks ahead on the calendar for the UNC system.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s first budget proposal has called for cuts in state appropriations by $138.5 million, would only partially fund the Board of Governors’ five-year strategic plan projects and would saddle out-of-state students with yet another tuition hike.

Those cuts in state money come after $400 million in previous reductions during the past two years.

And, as The Chapel Hill Herald’s Gregory Childress reported last week, revenues from the tuition increase that would normally go back to campuses to provide financial aid instead would be destined for the state’s General Fund.

“The tuition increase is disturbing because when we do a tuition increase we spend a lot of time thinking about the implications on financial aid and making sure we meet those,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp told the university’s Board of Trustees.

The University Gazette, a web newsletter for UNC faculty and staff, states that McCrory’s proposed budget “effectively reduces funding for need-based financial aid by $25 million.”

University officials are also rightly worried about how the proposed out-of-state tuition hike might backfire and do even more harm: If students can get a better deal outside Carolina, why shouldn’t they? Jennifer Willis, UNC’s director of state relations, put it this way:

“There is concern about our ability to actually collect those receipts if this tuition increase does go into effect, whether students who are making their decisions on where to attend college, would they change their mind if this tuition increase prices Carolina out, particularly because we’re not going to have any offsetting funds for financial aid.”

It’s not a done deal yet, but McCrory’s got a far more receptive audience in the General Assembly this session than his predecessor enjoyed. And some in the legislature certainly wouldn’t mind seeing the UNC system lose even more than McCrory has proposed.

As state leaders debate the budget during the next few months, Thorp – fighting one of his last battles before leaving UNC this summer – plans to “object as aggressively” as possible.

Good luck shouting into that storm.