CHAPEL HILL – Undergraduate students enrolled at the state’s 16 public universities, UNC Chapel Hill included, will likely have a reason to rejoice for the 2014-2015 school year. UNC System President Tom Ross said Thursday he hopes to freeze tuition costs for in-state students after a decade of steady increases.
Ross told members of the UNC System’s Board Of Governors at a Thursday budget meeting: “I think it is time for us to step back and not increase tuition. It’s going to be a struggle because we received another budget cut this year, but we have to figure out how we can be more efficient and how we can absorb these cuts.”
As part of the General Assembly’s two-year budget plans, cuts to the UNC System will be substantial. The spending plan allocates $126.5 million less than what was projected would be necessary to maintain last year’s operating levels, according to the Associated Press.
Charles Perusse, Chief Operating Officer for the UNC System, recapped the 2013 Legislative Session, which many criticized for the cuts made to education, writing, “We had a number of victories in Raleigh, but many of the victories were from playing defense.”
“The biggest wins were taking less of a reduction that we have seen over the past few years. Our net cut is about 2.5 percent this year [2013-2014], but if you look at the big reductions we took in the 2011-2013 time frame, those were close to a 13 percent reduction. We fared fair better this year and we are very thankful for that,” Perusse said.
UNC-CH has taken approximately $235 million in total state cuts since 2008.
Perusse counted other successes in areas like fewer line-item cuts for significant management flexibility and retaining UNC’s IT Exemption Fund.
“We kept management flexibility, information technology, and human resources. It is very important for us to meet student demands in the IT area as well as being able to recruit and retain important faculty,” Perusse said.
A funding cut that Perusse said was very disappointing was the loss of $15 million in appropriations for the UNC School of Medicine.
“By way of background, that appropriation used to be about $46 million. Then five years ago, when the recession hit and revenues became tight, that $46 million has been whittled down and that $15 million was the remaining portion—that eliminates it totally.”
Though much of the focus was on in-state students, Perusses said out-of-state students may catch a break in the 2014-2015 school year as well.
“The Legislature did include some built-in, non-resident tuition increases next year. 12.3 percent on four campuses [including UNC-CH] and six percent on other campuses, but I think there’s going to be further discussion about whether we want to get those tuition increases eliminated or reduced going forward,” Perusse said.
Tuition changes for the 2014-2015 school year won’t be finalized until this February.
The full Board Of Governors will meet Friday and is expected to vote on budget allocations for the 17 universities.
A noteworthy audience member at Thursday’s budget discussion was UNC Chancellor Carol Folt. The Board added 15 new members earlier in the day.