The cost of attending Western Carolina University would increase 4.45 percent for the 2011-12 academic year under a plan approved Wednesday, Dec. 8, by the WCU Board of Trustees.
Board action came during a special called meeting after trustees decided to delay a vote on the proposal during their regular quarterly meeting Dec. 1 to give members more time to study the issue.
With the proposed charges approved by the trustees, costs to attend WCU in 2011-12 would total $11,055 per year for a typical N.C. undergraduate, including on-campus housing and the most-popular meal plan, an increase of $471.20 a year.
The cost of tuition for an in-state undergraduate would be $3,048 per year, up $232.20 from the 2010-11 tuition cost of $2,815.80. The schedule of tuition and fees includes an 8.2 percent increase in campus-based tuition that would go toward improvements in the classroom experience for students, faculty salary enhancements and need-based financial aid.
“None of us likes to raise tuition, particularly in the hard economic times we are in, when everybody is hurting,” said Charles Worley, vice chair of the trustees. “We know that we are facing cuts from the state. The only hope we have of maintaining the academic core, or at least minimizing the hurt, is with this tuition increase.”
The proposed increases are subject to approval of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. Fees for the next academic year are set as early as possible to give students and their families reasonable time to prepare for the financial requirements of attending the university.
The proposed increase in campus-initiated tuition includes the maximum 6.5 percent hike authorized by the Board of Governors, plus an additional $50 as part of a provision designed to enable certain UNC campuses, including WCU, to “catch up” to universities that were the first to implement local tuition charges. Western Carolina did not request a local tuition charge until the third year the option was made available by the Board of Governors, said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance.
As part of Wednesday’s action, the trustees also agreed to request the Board of Governors to amend its tuition policy and extend the “catch up” provision beyond the four-year period spelled out in the current policy. In that case, the Board of Trustees would postpone implementation of the additional $50 tuition charge, resulting in a tuition increase of 6.5 percent.
The move came in response to concerns expressed by Daniel Dorsey, an ex officio member of the trustees and president of the WCU Student Government Association.
“Student Senate is in support of a tuition increase because we understand the tough times we are in. We understand the need to protect the quality of our education and our academic core,” Dorsey said. “But we also think an 8.2 percent increase might be a little too much.”
Even with the 8.2 percent increase, Western Carolina would remain among the least-expensive institutions in the UNC system, Wooten said. “We believe that our proposed schedule of tuition and fees for the coming academic year is in keeping with our university’s long tradition of offering a high-quality education at a reasonable cost,” he said.
Wooten also cited figures from the College Board showing that the average cost to attend a U.S. public four-year institution in 2010-11 is $20,157, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other out-of-pocket expenses. That compares to $14,110 at WCU, when additional living expenses are included.
Among other proposed fee increases:
– An increase of $71 in the athletics fee (from $617 to $688) to provide funds to meet the rising cost of fielding intercollegiate athletics programs, including scholarships for student-athletes and to help close a budget gap created earlier this year when state legislators did away with a provision allowing UNC schools to grant scholarships to out-of-state student-athletes at in-state tuition rates.
– A $24 increase in the education and technology fee, from $363 a year to $387, for technology upgrades in classrooms, computer laboratories and residence halls.
– A $15 increase in the health services fee, from $245 per year to $260, to provide additional operational funds for university medical and mental health services.
– A $4 increase in the student activity fee (from $526 to $530 per year) for equipment and operational expenses at the Campus Recreation Center, and operating funds for other student programs and activities.
– A $4 increase in the transportation fee, from $60 per year to $64, to provide funds to operate a campus shuttle service, including vehicle maintenance, construction of shelters and rising fuel costs, and to gear up for the expansion of shuttle service to Millennial Initiative property on the west side of N.C. Highway 107, where a new health sciences building is scheduled to open in 2012.
– A $15.50 increase in the fee for a student parking permit, from $56.50 to $72 a year. The cost of faculty/staff parking permits would increase by $12 a year ($60 to $72), and the cost of faculty/staff reserved space parking permits would rise $30 (from $120 per year to $150).
Not all fees would be increasing under the proposal. The debt service fee used to fund a renovation of A.K. Hinds University Center that was completed in 2004 would decrease 55.6 percent, or $45 a year (from $81 to $36), while a similar debt service fee for construction of the Campus Recreation Center would drop 1.3 percent, or $2 a year (from $150 to $148).
A complete schedule of proposed tuition and fees will be posted online at tuitionfees.wcu.edu.