Wednesday, May 18, 2016

UNC Tuition for $500? State Lawmakers Consider the Possibility at 5 Campuses

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Sarah Brown
May 18, 2016

Since Republicans assumed the majority in North Carolina’s legislature six years ago, the state has become a sort of lab for unorthodox higher-education-reform proposals. Remember the bill that would have required all University of North Carolina professors to carry a 4/4 teaching load? Or the plan to route the weakest students admitted to the system’s campuses to community colleges first?

Lawmakers’ latest idea: Cut tuition for in-state students to $500 a semester at five UNC campuses, including four minority-serving institutions.

The price tag would be a welcome relief for many students. What’s less clear is whether the state would pick up all or some of the tab for the lost tuition revenue. The measure, Senate Bill 873, includes no mention of additional state money for those institutions. Its primary sponsor, State Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican, didn’t respond to The Chronicle’s request for comment — though he said last week that the low-tuition plan would cost $60 million to $80 million and proposed that the money could come from the state’s general fund, according to The News & Observer.

The bill, introduced last week in the State Senate, is an attention-grabbing addition to a conversation about higher-education costs that is taking place in state legislatures nationwide. Several states have acted over the past several years to freeze public-college tuition for a year or two. In rare cases, states have even reduced tuition.

But no state has curbed costs as drastically as the North Carolina bill would, college-affordability experts say, and virtually all of the recent measures that froze or cut tuition used extra state money to make up at least some of the difference.

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