Education

UNC system drafting ideas for implementing tuition plan

UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette and UNC President Margaret Spellings discuss plans for implementing tuition plan approved in the state budget.
UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette and UNC President Margaret Spellings discuss plans for implementing tuition plan approved in the state budget.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings told attendees at Friday’s Board of Governors meeting that implementation strategies for the state’s changes to college tuition are being explored.

Tuition prices will drop at three schools: Elizabeth City State University, UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University. This year’s state budget approved by the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory sets tuition at $500 per semester for North Carolina residents beginning with the fall 2018 academic semester.

N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville initially proposed $500 tuition at five schools in May, a plan that drew backlash from advocates for historically black colleges and universities.

The legislature’s changes will immediately impact more than 40,000 incoming state-resident students with a UNC system-wide tuition freeze starting this fall. Incoming students will pay a fixed tuition rate over at least four years.

“We will further develop an implementation plan to make sure it meets our shared goals,” Spellings said.

While the plan has raised long-term concerns, Spellings called Apodaca’s initial bill “a bold, innovative approach to providing accessible and affordable higher education.”

Having many of the bill’s provisions in the budget reflects the state legislature’s commitment to higher education, Spellings said.

“It sends a powerful message that North Carolina takes seriously its constitutional obligation to keep public colleges and universities as free as practicable," she said.

Spellings said in a news conference after the Board of Governors meeting that a task force is working to generate ideas for marketing the tuition freeze and offsetting the lost revenue at the three schools with lower tuition. She estimates the task force will have something prepared for the state legislature early next year.

“We have a lot of marketing responsibility to do just to make sure that people understand what happens when and where,” she said.

Bryan Anderson: 919-829-8934, @BryanRAnderson

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