Herald-Sun editorial: Tuition costs seem always to rise

Nov. 29, 2012 @ 05:15 PM

This is not just a North Carolina Central University issue. That should be made clear, first thing.

A draft proposal this week heard by the university’s Board of Trustees called for a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates next year, as well as a 3 percent increase in housing costs and a 4 percent increase in the price for dining plans.

Students, understandably, will most likely not be particularly happy with these rising costs. Student Body President Reggie McCrimmon, who is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, said to them Tuesday that students “ have no desire for any increase.”

“For the past three years, we’ve seen a lot of changes on this campus — larger class sizes, elimination of the sociology department, restrictions on travel, harder progression rules. We’ve eliminated so much, and now here we are again asking for an increase. Most students say no,” McCrimmon said.

NCCU has a proud legacy as the nation’s first public liberal arts institution founded to educate African Americans. It has made significant strides in recent years, enhancing its academic offerings and increasing enrollment, and NCCU has seen its public profile take a substantial step forward. It has also made some changes along the way, as McCrimmon noted.

The question that public institutions must face is what role affordability and economic accessibility play in their missions to serve their many constituencies. For historically black colleges and universities, such as NCCU, which draw from some populations that are economically disadvantaged, this is a particularly important issue.

NCCU officials rightly note that they have made millions of dollars in cuts over the past few years, and that there are more and higher costs involved in what universities are promising to deliver to their students today. And it can rightly be said that even with the increases, the rates and fees that NCCU is charging are reasonable, given the marketplace. In addition, NCCU makes financial aid, scholarships and work study available to students who need it, as universities typically do.

Besides the short-term impact for current students, increases in tuition and related costs raise any number of long-term questions, the most pressing being, is charging more and more every year sustainable? How long until people are unable or simply unwilling to pay? These questions are on the minds of university administrators all over the country.