Tuition for all students at N.C. State University should increase by at least 3 percent in each of the next two academic years, and a special fee for engineering students should jump from $90 annually to $1,000, a committee of the university’s trustees decided Thursday.
For undergraduate students from North Carolina, that means tuition would rise $182 next year, then another $187 a year later, to $6,407. For undergraduates from elsewhere, tuition would increase 6 percent each year, to $23,926 in fall 2016.
The big jolt, though, would be to the university’s nearly 8,800 engineering students, who would get not only tuition increases but a rise in the special fee. It would jump to $500 next fall and $1,000 the next.
University leaders also are planning to increase it again in 2017, to $1,500, but on Thursday the committee was voting only on two years of changes.
The fee for engineering students is necessary to help the school of engineering keep pace with competing schools, which are pouring money into popular and competitive engineering programs, said Provost Warwick Arden. It would be used to cover the cost of infrastructure such as labs and constantly-evolving equipment and programs that make an engineering education more expensive for the university to provide than other majors, said NCSU officials.
“The reality is that engineering is not a static field, and it’s changing rapidly,” Arden said.
The fee increase is crucial so that the university can compete with peer institutions that are pumping tens of millions of dollars annually into their infrastructure and programs, Arden said. Nearly every one of those competitors has higher tuition – in some cases nearly double NCSU’s – and charge engineering students fees of from $1,000 to $5,000 to help foot the bills, he said.
Chancellor Randy Woodson said that the university needs to continue producing high-quality engineering graduates, but it can’t make other students shoulder the costs of staying competitive in engineering, so the fees are a good alternative.
The standard NCSU student fees also would rise $138 by fall of 2016, to a total of $2,396 for undergraduates and $2,407 for graduate students. Much of the increase would go to boost the number of counselors. That service is in short supply because there aren’t enough counselors to meet what is considered the basic standard, one per 1,500 students, according to university documents.
State support declines
Tuition increases are a tool that the state’s public university’s have been using to help offset repeated cuts in their allocation from the state budget in recent years, though the increases have raised concerns inside and outside the UNC system about the eroding affordability of public higher education.
Graduate students, whether from in or out of state, would also see tuition increase by 3 percent. Out-of-state tuition for them would rise to $22,610 by fall 2016, while in-state grad students would pay $8,088.
For in-state undergraduate students, tuition increases have been capped at 5 percent annually by the UNC system’s Board of Governors.
The committee’s recommendation on the tuition and fee increases must be approved by the full board of trustees, which is expected to consider the matter at its meeting Friday. The increases would then have to be approved by the UNC system’s Board of Governors before taking effect.