UNC System Seal

CHAPEL HILL – UNC System leaders have mixed feelings about a pilot program that proposes to counter falling enrollment at six campuses by allowing a greater number of out-of-state students.

The UNC System Board of Governors discussed the measure Thursday that could allow up to 30 percent of newly enrolled students to come from outside the state, effecting the campuses of ECSU, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Winston-Salem State University, and UNC-Pembroke. Those campuses have historically served minority students.

A final decision on the measure is months away, and the policy is designed to be on a 5-year trial run.

Board member Marty Kotis said he feared the proposed policy would shift the focus away from in-state students.

“I think you have to continue to remember the citizens of this state and why this university [system] exists the way it is and why it’s not a private university,” Kotis said.

Kotis said that the Board couldn’t predict the impact of such a decision and believed that it could instead raise tuition for in-state students by shifting the burden of the cost. The policy also suggested lowering the tuition rate for counties and states that border North Carolina as system-wide measure.

“Without that hard data and without knowing the exact cost of providing that degree to those students, I don’t know if we can make any decision that is not just guessing,” Kotis said.

He added that the policy could violate the State Constitution of North Carolina. By law, enrollment of non-North Carolina freshmen is limited to 18 percent at public universities.

The proposal noted that it wouldn’t cause the number of North Carolina students admitted to decline, rather it would focus on rebuilding enrollment with more out-of-staters. The six campuses all saw revenues from enrollment fall in the past year, according to system officials.

Though the policy won’t effect the flagship university, in context, from 2011 to 2012, UNC Chapel Hill had a 0.5 percent increase in enrollment, with a total headcount of 29,278 students,

Board member Hannah Gage said she believed there were other ways to help the struggling campuses in the system and said recruiting more out-of-state students would only be a temporary fix.

“I think you can look around the country and see campuses that have struggled before and have become hybrids,” Gage said. “They have done creative things with community colleges, and some of that should be a part of the conversation before we ramp up the out-of-state numbers.”

A possible economic advantage of the policy is that almost half  of the out-of-state students who attend the six campuses stay in North Carolina after graduation, according the system figures.

On a broader level, the Fall 2012 total headcount for the UNC System was 221,010 students, or an increase of 0.3 percent from the previous year. System officials noted that while the increase was notable, it was minor when compared to the previous decade’s rapid expansion.