Possibility of UNC system enrollment cap discussed

Could the UNC school system start implementing an attendance cap on enrollment?

According to the Charlotte Observer, with all of the budget cuts and an anticipated $500 million cut for the 2011-2012 year, Bradley Wilson, a former chairman of the UNC system’s Board of Governors ,said “We’ve always said we want to keep the doors open as wide as we can. The question is, can we afford that anymore?”

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the UNC system’s Board of Governors, also said “If we end up with 14 or 15 percent cuts this year, we’ll have to decide whether protecting quality is more important than growth. The only thing that makes sense is to consciously say, ‘We can’t grow anymore,'” according to the Charlotte Observer.

North Carolina subsidizes the cost of every N.C. resident’s education at all public universities. The UNC system has requested $45 million in additional funding to accommodate growing enrollment and attendance for next year. The requested $45 million, however, does not meet Gov. Bev Perdue’s spending goal of only $23 million.

What does this mean for our university? Will attendance be lowered at WCU?

Phil Cauley, Director of Student Recruitment and Transitions at WCU, said, “Our hope is that mandatory caps on attendance would not be implemented at the state or system level.”

The true cost of providing a college education at Western Carolina University exceeds the tuition, fees, and room and board that North Carolinians are billed; the state underwrites a significant portion of the tuition explained Cauley.

Reductions in state funding, through either caps on enrollment or reductions on the amount of funding per student, will have negative consequences. This can affect enrollment numbers and what kind of quality college experience students will have who are still able to enroll.

“State reductions or caps that restrict enrollment have a domino effect on non-state revenues and resources as well,” Cauley said. “Drops in student enrollment would reduce non-state budgets that are based upon enrollment numbers like funds for student activities like concerts, residential living funds for building renovations or improvements, health services resources, athletic support, etc.”

Students can already seeing some of the effects of budget cuts at WCU. Coley said the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program traditionally enrolls new student cohorts every fall and spring semester; however, the program will not enroll new students into this high-demand program this coming fall because of limited resources.

Will the overall enrollment of WCU be effected? Will we see a drop in numbers for the new year?

Cauley said that WCU is hoping enrollment this fall will exceed 9,500, unless upcoming budget cuts or enrollment restrictions negatively impact those goals. Currently, it is unknown how many students will be in Cullowhee this fall. Sam Miller, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at Western Carolina, said that the university will not be able to determine enrollment numbers until students show up because they have until the first day of classes to fully pay their bill.

Will a decreased enrollment affect financial aid?

“Even if less students attend WCU, that does not mean more financial aid to each individual student,” said Trina Orr, Director of Financial Aid. “Financial Aid is awarded according to federal and state methodology based on appropriations. We do have increased financial aid applications with diminishing resources.”

For right now, an enrollment cap will continue to be a debated topic in the UNC school system and in the state legislature. Though WCU may not see an enrollment cap anytime soon, other universities in the UNC system, like UNC Charlotte, may see enrollment caps as early as next year, according to reports, because their enrollment numbers have skyrocketed in recent years


Recent Total Headcount Enrollment at WCU

Fall 2010:9,407

Fall 2009:9,429

Fall 2008:9,050

Fall 2007:9,056

Fall 2006:8,861

Fall 2005: 8,665