WCU should prepare for another tuition increase, more budget cuts

Western Carolina University saw a $572.80 increase this semester. Next year, the university should be prepared for another tuition increase, at least $500, and a five percent overall budget cut according to school administrators.

Last week, UNC system schools began putting in their budget request plan for next year. The main concern with the current budget situation is whether North Carolina will see a five percent or 10 percent mandatory budget cut. That would be $135 million and $270 million, respectively.

Chuck Wooten, Vice Chancellor for administration and finance, explains WCU is prepared to deal with a five percent budget cut without having to ask departments to cut their budget further, but a ten percent increase would be a problem and require further questioning and allocating of funds.

Two years ago, the administration foresaw the possibility of budget cuts and set aside funds, which has helped.

“We are trying to be as transparent as we can. That’s the way we get through these difficult times, by working together instead of against each other,” Wooten said.

Western students should, however, expect at least a $500 increase in tuition.            

“We are working on tuition and fees,” Wooten said. “We are trying to hold increase to a minimum.”

Since the tuition needs legislative approval, this is not an official amount of increase yet. When the N.C. legislature begins meeting, they will decide on a tuition increase for the university.

“Everyone in the nation is experiencing this,” Wooten said.

How will students be affected by the future budget cuts?          

To offset costs for the 2011-2012 year and deal with an increasing number of students, there will be fewer available class sections, larger class sizes and an increase in part-time faculty members.

“We’re really going to impact the academic side,” Jeff Davies, UNC system president Erskine Bowles’ chief of staff,  said at a meeting of the system’s Board of Governors on Nov. 4. “We’re talking about serious challenges in the university system over the next year.”

According to Dr. Sam Miller, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, “Current plans for next year call for a small increase in the freshman class for the 2011-2012 year. This fall we had roughly 1,450 freshmen and next fall we’re planning for 1,530.”

How will this affect on-campus housing?

Harrill Hall closing will be the most impactful situation for the 2011-2012 year. This summer, Harrill will be taken offline to receive updated air conditioning, newly modified plumbing and electricity and solar panels. Construction will take an entire year to complete. With Harrill Hall closing, that will mean 400 less beds on campus. Currently, there are about 4,000 beds on campus with about 3,800 people living on campus.

How will another budget cut affect funding for student organizations? So far, student groups and organizations’ funding will not be impacted. Professional development training, faculty, classroom sizes and class availability will be affected.

(Editor-in-Chief Justin Caudell contributed to this story.)