Archived News

WCU trustees approve fee increases for 2019-20

WCU trustees approve fee increases for 2019-20

Western Carolina University students will likely see only a modest increase to their cost of attendance following the Board of Trustees’ approval of tuition and fee levels for 2019-20.

Because of the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, there will be no increase in tuition rates. Fee increases will fall far below the 3 percent cap mandated by the state, rising by only 1.7 percent, though meal and housing plans will increase by about 4 percent, depending on the exact plan chosen. WCU did not raise fees at all last year. 

“We’re taking that cap very, very seriously,” said Mike Byers, WCU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance. 

Fall 2018 was the first semester for N.C. Promise, which capped undergraduate tuition at three UNC schools, including WCU, at $500 per semester for in-state students and $2,500 for out-of-state students. The state legislature has pledged to pay the difference between that fixed rate and the actual cost of providing an education and thus far has kept its promise. Now in its first year, the program boosted WCU to a record-high freshman class and a 40 percent increase in transfer students. 

However, the overall cost of attendance is padded with university fees and, for on-campus students, food and housing costs. While two semesters at WCU would cost an in-state student only $1,000 in tuition, mandatory fees for 2018-19 bring the cost to $3,788. On-campus undergraduates would pay about $13,178 or $17,178 for tuition, fees, food and housing, depending on whether they’re in-state or out-of state. That’s up from $12,738 or $16,738 this year — a $440 increase.

Next year, students will pay $48 more in mandatory fees than they are this year, upping the annual cost 1.27 percent for in-state undergraduates and 0.62 percent for out-of state undergraduates. The increase includes $26 more annually for the athletic fee, $14 for the student activity fee and $8 for the health services fee. These increases are needed mainly to cover rising personnel costs, especially for university employees not supported by state dollars. 

Related Items

In addition, a 4.24 percent increase of $5 in the transportation fee will allow the Cat-Tran shuttle service to keep a weekend schedule. Trustees also approved a 1.36 percent increase of $4 in the book rental fee. 

The tuition and fee proposal was developed through a “grassroots effort” across campus, Byers said, with programs asked for proposals for tuition and fee increases. Those proposals then go through the chancellor’s office and leadership council and are sent on to the Tuition and Fee Advisory Committee, which includes students, faculty and staff from across campus. The process included two open campus discussions, a town hall sponsored by the Student Government Association, an online survey and an interactive live-streamed video session. Students responding to the survey said they were not in favor of the proposed increases but that they supported N.C. Promise.

The advisory committee approved all of the enacted tuition and fee increases except for the athletic fee increase. However, administration recommended that trustees approve all the increases, and trustees agreed. The athletics fee is currently $756 and will increase to $782 next year, generating more than $200,000 in additional revenue. 

Meals and housing would both see an increase of about 4 percent, depending on the exact plan and housing option selected, and the cost of parking passes for students living on campus will take a sharp hike. Freshman permits will hold steady at $400, but sophomore permits will increase from $324 to $400, junior permits from $288 to $324 and permits for seniors and graduate students from $252 to $288. Commuter permits will increase as well, from $288 to $324.

The increases will require approval from the UNC Board of Governors to go into effect, with a vote expected in January or February.

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.