CHAPEL HILL (September 22, 2022) – Despite inflationary pressures and chancellors’ desire for a tuition increase, the UNC System will hold tuition for in-state undergraduates steady for a seventh straight year in 2023-24, President Peter Hans said this week.
“Tuition is the single most important signal we send,” Hans told a committee of the UNC Board of Governors on Wednesday.
“We’ve kept a laser focus on affordability – low cost and low debt,” he told the full board today.
While there is debate nationally about student-loan forgiveness, he said, the best way to limit student debt is to not create it in the first place.
North Carolina ranks in the top five states in college affordability.1 Tuition and fees for in-state undergrads were $8,918 at NC State University this year and $8,751 at UNC Chapel Hill.
At the UNC System’s other 14 campuses, tuition and fees range from $3,356 at Elizabeth City State University to $8,941 at the UNC School of the Arts.2
The System will consider increases in out-of-state and graduate tuition for 2023-24, as well as limited increases in fees, Hans said.3
The System has strong financial-aid programs to make education available to students from all backgrounds, Hans said, but many North Carolina families are struggling to cope with inflation, and tuition increases fuel doubts about the value of a college education.
“We’re in a period of intense skepticism about higher education,” he said.
The UNC System guarantees fixed tuition – an incoming freshman pays the same tuition for eight straight semesters. So any tuition increase would affect only first-year students in the year it takes effect.
THE CONTINUED TUITION FREEZE seems to run counter to what chancellors from several UNC institutions have told System officials this year, though.
Many say they are losing faculty and staff or seeing the cost of capital projects jump. The System Office reported a dramatic spike in faculty turnover at 13 of the System’s 16 campuses starting in June 2021.4
University faculty and staff received 3.5% raises this year in what Hans described as “unprecedented” support from the state. Those raises amounted to less than half the inflation rate of more than 8%, however.5
The budget legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper approved did set aside an additional $33 million – the equivalent of a 1% across-the-board raise – for “targeted salary increases to recruit and retain capable labor,”6 as well as $1 billion in an inflation reserve for construction projects across state government.7
But how those funds are allocated remains to be seen. We simply must do more to make pay for university faculty and staff competitive.
NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson told the Board of Governors in April that NC State’s buying power had shrunken by $50 million due to inflation and that repair and renovation projects routinely come in 15-20% over budget.
“We haven’t had a tuition increase for (in-state) students for six years now,” Woodson said. “It’s beginning to impact our ability to meet the needs of the state.”
Similarly, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said the estimated cost of a new building at the Kenan-Flagler Business School had risen by 18-20% in a year.
Then-Chancellor Jose “Zito” Sartarelli of UNC Wilmington said he had lost critical staff in audit, information technology and human resources
Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey said at the time that campuses are finding it harder and harder to operate, and he was worried about the system’s smaller campuses in particular.
“We are almost certainly going to have to look at raising tuition going forward,” Ramsey said, “because I don’t see how we’re going to be able to sustain it.”8
3 https://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/doc.php?id=66965&code=bog, pp. 20-22.
6 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewNewsFile/61/JointConferenceCommitteeReport_2022_06_28_final, p. 46/B28.
7 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewNewsFile/61/JointConferenceCommitteeReport_2022_06_28_final, p. 8/A2.