RALEIGH (September 14, 2023) – The UNC System will hold in-state tuition constant at its 17 campuses in 2024-25 for the eighth straight year, President Peter Hans announced today.
“Low tuition is at the heart of our compact with the citizens of North Carolina,” Hans told the UNC Board of Governors. “We can only be the University of the People if we offer an education the people of this state can afford.”
Adjusted for inflation, he said, tuition at UNC System schools is actually lower than it was eight years ago – particularly at the system’s four NC Promise schools, which charge in-state tuition of $500 a semester.
“There’s not a single other state in the country that can claim a similar achievement,” he said. “Not a single one. And I would like to see us extend this remarkable run to a full decade.”
Hans noted that students across the country often get a message that college isn’t worth it.
“In North Carolina, that simply isn’t true,” he said. “Low tuition has been the North Carolina way.”
The UNC System is seeing fewer students graduate with debt, Hans said, and among those who do, the total debt is lower than it was three years ago.
“We fight about education because it matters, because people of goodwill have competing ideas for how best to meet our mission,” he said.
“What sets North Carolina apart is not the intensity of our political battles, but the consistency of our political support for higher education. We must never, ever take that for granted.”
WHILE FLAT TUITION will be music to many parents’ ears, some board members raised warnings Wednesday in a meeting of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee. The continued freeze in in-state tuition follows several years of flat revenues, inflated prices and loss of personnel.1
“One thing I don’t want to do, Mr. Chairman, is handicap our institutions,” said board member Joel Ford.
Board member Swadesh Chatterjee noted a growing recognition of mental-health problems among students – especially after a fatal shooting of a UNC Chapel Hill professor two weeks ago.
“The budget for mental health is minuscule,” Chatterjee said.
Hans responded that he’s grateful to Gov. Roy Cooper for supplying the UNC System with federal Covid-relief dollars to help meet mental-health needs.
AT A TIME WHEN ENROLLMENT in college is projected to decrease nationwide because birth rates fell during the Great Recession, the board also heard preliminary enrollment figures for 2023-24 that carried both good and bad news.
The preliminary figures show the total number of students in the UNC System increased 1.2%.2 That follows a 2% decline in enrollment in 2022-23.3
The system saw a 9% increase in applications, reflecting in part a “dramatic demand increase from out-of-state students,” said David English, the Acting Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.
After decades of consistent growth in North Carolina high-school graduates, though, English noted that the number of graduates is projected to flatten, so that it will essentially be the same in 2030 as in 2019.
And it appears the UNC System is winning an increasing share of a shrinking number of students who choose to go to college.
Andrew Kelly, the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy, reported that the percentage of North Carolina high-school graduates who go to college declined from 62% in 2015 to 55% in 2022.
Of the high-school graduates who do go to college, though, the UNC System’s share has increased from 38.5% to 40.7%, he said.4
DESPITE THE RISE IN SKEPTICISM of the value of a college degree, data shared by Deloitte with the board’s Strategic Initiatives Committee left little doubt.
A worker with a bachelor’s degree working full-time made $34,550 more on average than a worker with a high-school degree. And over a lifetime, a worker with a bachelor’s degree earns $900,000-$1 million more on average than a high-school graduate.
“On average, earning a college degree is very much worth the cost,” said committee chair Mark Holton.
But that depends very much on the field of study and completion of a degree, Holton said. And the return on investment is strongest at public universities.5
2 https://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/doc.php?id=67552&code=bog, pp. 90-106.
4 https://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/doc.php?id=67552&code=bog, p. 101.
5 https://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/doc.php?id=67551&code=bog, pp. 7-36.