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WCU tuition increase poses financial problems for students

A tuition hike spells additional hardships for many students at Western Carolina University, at least those who already find it difficult to scratch up the dollars needed to obtain a college degree.

“I’m sure it’s going to be hard on many of them,” said Seth McCormick, who teaches art history.

And on a recent weekend in Cullowhee, a group of students who also double as Subway Restaurant employees agreed. Most of their fellow students were gone from campus. Exams finished, they’d headed home for the holiday break. But not Carrie Collins of Pilot Mountain, or Bethanne Bentley of Raleigh — they were hard at work, earning money to help pay their way through school.

“It will be difficult to come up with,” Collins said of the additional 4.45 percent she will pay for the 2011-12 academic year.

That translates to an additional $471.20 a year for typical N.C. undergraduates who are living on campus and receiving the most-popular meal plan. The total cost for these students each year will be $11,055. Tuition alone for these students would be $3,048 per year, up $232.20.

Collins, a hospitality and tourism major, who described herself as a “super-duper” junior (which she defined as meaning she’s stayed a junior for more time than anticipated), said she’d probably be forced to seek even more help via student loans.

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Fortunately, Collins said, books are included in the tuition fees at WCU.

North Carolina is faced with a $3.7 billion shortfall. Cuts are trickling down to universities and other state institutions. The WCU Board of Trustees approved the tuition hike Dec. 8.

Trustees Vice Chairman Charles Worley said in a prepared news release the “only hope we have of maintaining the academic core, or at least minimizing the hurt, is with this tuition increase.”

Bentley said she feels fortunate she will only be going to school part-time next semester. She lives off campus, and believes her goal of becoming a social worker is still reachable.

The increase came as a jolt to one of WCU’s newest students. Freshman Corvin Parker, a Raleigh resident who was buying lunch at Subway, said the tuition hike served as something of a spur.

“It makes me think I want to buckle down,” Parker said.

There are other increases coming, as well. WCU is seeking permission from the University of North Carolina system to also:

• Increase the athletics fee by $71, from $617 to $688.

• Add $24 to the education and technology fee, from $363 a year to $387.

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