UNCG Chancellor Linda Brady told state lawmakers today that a tuition committee comprised of students, faculty and staff has recommended a 10 percent tuition hike for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Brady and high education leaders from NC A&T University and GTCC met with members of the Guilford County delegation to the NC General Assembly this afternoon in Greensboro City Council chambers.
Brady said she will take the recommendation of the tuition committee to the UNCG Board of Trustees next week. The University of North Carolina Board of Governors, which governs the state’s university system, is expected to consider tuition increases across the system in February.
“It’s obviously a challenge because we want to continue to provide access to students, but I think it’s essential to try to maintain the quality of our educational experience,” Brady said. “Just before he left his position, Erksine Bowles, who is the former president of the UNC system, made a comment to the board of governors that low tuition with low quality is no bargain.”
The board of governors maintains a 6.5 percent cap on tuition increases, but Brady said the board indicated that universities in the system could go above that if they were significantly below their peer universities nationally. Even with a 10 percent increase, she said, tuition at UNCG will remain in the bottom quartile among universities across the state.
Interim Provost Winser Alexander was not able to provide a percentage increase, but A&T also plans to hike tuition above the 6.5 percent cap. The News & Record has reported that A&T is likewise considering a 10 percent increase.
Brady said a third of the revenue raised from the tuition hike will be invested in need-based financial aid "to offset the increase for our neediest students."
The majority of the revenue will be invested in hiring additional instructors and faculty, and for faculty raises to increase compensation towards a goal of 80 percent of average salaries provided by peer institutions across the nation. Brady said faculty and staff have not received raises in three years.
“The concern that we have – and it’s really a concern for all of the campuses – is the risk of losing some of our very best faculty to other institutions,” Brady said. “And this will help. It will send an important signal. And it’s important to our students because they come and stay and major in particular areas because of the quality and reputation of the faculty.
“Our IT mid-level people are being recruited away by the private sector,” she added. “And it’s difficult for us to compete there because the salaries that are being offered are fully 20 percent higher than they are making at the university.”
Alexander said state budget cuts have had “a significant impact” on A&T, resulting in cuts to faculty and support staff, including a reduction of 66 full-time equivalent faculty positions. The loss of faculty positions has carried over to a reduction of course offerings.
Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat, asked Alexander if students were having to adjust their majors as a result of having fewer course options.
“Probably some of all of that,” Alexander responded. “We have far less flexibility in terms of things that we can do. So there will be fewer offerings, but to my knowledge we don’t have any students who are prevented from graduating as a result of that.”
Christopher Tew, a member of UNCG’s Class of 1969, said he and his wife oppose tuition increases.
“The reason for that, as Chancellor Brady mentioned, many of the students are working or married, or have families. This is a tremendous burden to place on them…. It’s the equivalent of paying Paul by robbing Peter. We’re giving grants and scholarships to the less fortunate, who certainly deserve and need it, but the money’s coming from those who are only a little more fortunate.”
Tew suggested that the university could avoid a tuition hike by taking money out of athletic programs that are funded through student fees.
“I do have a concern anytime we start asking students problems having enough money to get their education – I do have a concern about that, as I suspect every legislator does,” said Rep. John Faircloth, a member of the Republican majority in Raleigh. “These are tough times, as everyone knows.”
Faircloth questioned GTCC President Randy Parker about an enrichment class offered by the community college providing instruction in shag dancing. The lawmaker expressed concern that the class might create competition for private instructors.
Sen. Don Vaughan, a Democrat, quipped that he would be “eminently qualified” to teach the class.
“All of those programs are self-supporting,” Parker said. “There’s no state funding at all. We have to cover 100 percent of our costs, whatever that is. If Sen. Vaughan wants to teach a shag-dancing class across the street, we might see if we can hire him. It could be a joint effort between GTCC and Vaughan’s Dance Class.”