UNC system should freeze tuition for in-state students

January 13, 2014 

Yes, of course, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors should freeze in-state tuition next year, avoiding increases that would hurt middle class families. And the board should refuse out-of-state tuition hikes of 12.3 percent at some schools as mandated by the General Assembly, which has no business setting tuition rates anyway.

More modest out-of-state increases should be considered.

The truth is, the UNC system ought to be lowering in-state tuition, which has grown dramatically in the last 15 years. Are system schools still a bargain compared with other top public institutions? Perhaps, but North Carolina is not an affluent state, and it was hit hard by the Great Recession. People are still recovering.

The last couple of generations of university leaders turned to tuition increases as a way to offset what they viewed as inadequate support from the legislature. Indeed, that support hasn’t been what it should have been. The UNC system has long been a jewel in the state’s crown, and investment in these campuses brings dividends tangible and intangible. Tuition increases were supported in the name of maintaining this valuable asset. But as the years went by, the hikes got out of hand.

And it seemed that expenditures grew. UNC system President Tom Ross notes that he has worked to cut expenses. But at the larger campuses, the administrative bureaucracy seems to have grown. In other words, there may be more room to find savings.

President Obama has been among those who have called upon public institutions to watch that upward trend on expenses and to seek more efficiency so that the schools will not price average families out of higher education. That’s a reasonable mandate and one the president said he planned to enforce by linking federal grant money to universities’ ability to trim costs and hold down expenses for students.

As far as UNC tuition goes, the watchwords should be: freeze, yes. Lower, preferably

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