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Tuesday, 03 August 2010 19:55

WCU tuition hike to offset budget crunch

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To help offset the impact of budget cuts recently authorized by the N.C. General Assembly, Western Carolina University will raise in-state undergraduate tuition and fees by 17.5 percent effective for the fall semester.

University of North Carolina system President Erskine Bowles approved the plan Wednesday, July 14. A special provision of the state budget allows UNC campuses to increase tuition by as much as $750 for the 2010-11 academic year, a measure intended to help address a $70 million cut to the UNC system’s budget.

Western Carolina’s plan would raise tuition by $572.80 for 2010-11, in addition to a $137 increase in campus-initiated tuition previously approved by the UNC Board of Governors.

The tuition increase will maintain a quality student academic experience at WCU and will generate about $3.8 million, said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

Eighty percent of the increase – or $3.1 million – will be used to prevent the loss of 32.2 faculty positions at WCU.

Another 20 percent will go to need-based financial aid, Wooten said.

But WCU is not alone in tuition increases. All campuses in the UNC system are raising tuition.

UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State University both had supplemental tuition increases of $750 in addition to campus initiated tuition increases.

Bowles said additional tuition charges are the only way the system can maintain quality.

“I have long prided myself in being a ‘low-tuition guy.’ A supplemental tuition increase of up to $750 certainly flies in the face of that,” Bowles said. “Nonetheless, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that low tuition without high quality is no bargain for anyone – not our students, their future employers or the state taxpayers. To compete successfully for the jobs of tomorrow, North Carolina must have a highly trained, highly skilled workforce.”

A comparison to public peer institutions nationally, conducted using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, ranked WCU as having the lowest tuition and fees for resident undergraduate and graduate students in 2009-10.

“This is a difficult decision,” WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo said. “However, even with this increase, our overall tuition rates will be low compared to our public peer institutions and other UNC campuses similar to us in size and mission.”

In response to budget cuts and reversions last year, Western Carolina eliminated or froze 94 positions – primarily in administrative areas, Bardo said.

“It is critical that we preserve our core programs, retain our outstanding faculty members, minimize the impact of cuts on class size and class availability, and provide critical student support,” Bardo said.

Typically, students would begin receiving bills for the fall semester later this week. Because of the recent changes, billing for fall 2010 semester will be delayed to allow time for adjustments in financial aid packages, said Nancy S. Brendell, WCU bursar.

Electronic notifications for billing will be sent on Friday, July 23. Students should make full payment by Aug. 13 to guarantee their class schedules.

For more information, visit tuitionfees.wcu.edu.

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