NCSU board approves tuition and student fee hikes

N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson.
N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson. N.C. State University

N.C. State University’s trustees voted unanimously Friday to recommend hiking tuition by 3 percent in each of the next two years for all students except undergraduates from out of state, whose tuition would increase by 6 percent a year.

That means undergraduate students from North Carolina would pay $6,407 in tuition by fall of 2016, and out-of-state undergrads would pay $23,926.

Student fees also would increase, most notably a special fee charged to the university’s nearly 8,800 engineering students. That fee, now $90 annually, would jump to $500 next fall and $1,000 the next. The standard fees for all students would increase by a total of $138, to about $2,400 by fall 2016.

The higher tuition and fees would have to be approved by the UNC system’s Board of Governors. The board is expected to vote on the increases at a meeting early next year, along with proposed increases at other system schools, including similar-sized hikes at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The higher engineering fee will help cover the greater cost of educating engineering students, said Chancellor Randy Woodson, and was necessary so that NCSU can keep pace with its peers. Those schools have in recent years been investing heavily in their engineering programs, Woodson said, and not only charge students significantly higher tuition than NCSU, but also fees of up to $5,000.

Given the challenges the university faces in holding down tuition costs it is no longer rational or feasible, he told the trustees, to spread the additional costs involved in engineering education onto other students.

University leaders plan to ask the Board of Governors next year for approval to raise the engineering fee another $500 in 2017, to a total of $1,500.

Driven by repeated slashes in state funding by the legislature, the cost of an education in the UNC system has been rising quickly. The NCSU in-state undergraduate tuition proposed for the 2016-2017 academic year represents an 88 percent increase since 2004-2005, when tuition was $3,205. That increase was typical of schools across the UNC system.

The jump has led to worries about loading lower-income students with debt, or scaring them away from higher education. Until this year, the Board of Governors had allowed universities to divert some of each tuition hike to bolster need-based financial aid.

This summer, though, the board limited tuition-funded financial aid, capping it at 15 percent of tuition, a level that NCSU and UNC-CH already exceeded. The board had undergone a philosophical shift as conservative members came to dominate its makeup. Several said that they didn’t like the idea of taking money from middle-income families and using some of it to subsidize the tuition of lower-income students.

The cap means NCSU would have to wait for tuition to rise before it’s able to increase such aid again, Woodson said. Meanwhile, it will work harder to find private funding for need-based aid, he said.

The Board of Governors also has capped the in-state undergraduate tuition hikes and increases in student activity fees at 5 percent annually.