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Ross presents tuition plan to ASG

By Kelly Mayo
News Editor

January 26, 2012

UNC President Thomas Ross video conference
Photo by Kelly Mayo
UNC President Thomas Ross outlines his tuition proposal to ASG student leaders via video conference at UNCP on Jan. 21.

About 44 student representatives from 15 UNC schools discussed ways to deal with rising tuition and fees and shrinking budgets in a University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments (ASG) meeting held at UNCP on Jan. 21.

Some representatives engaged in a video conference with UNC system President Thomas Ross, where he shared his proposal for managing tuition increases and decreasing state support and tax revenue.

Student body leaders and delegates also broke into committees and discussed other ASG matters, including communications and upcoming events.

ASG is a student-run body which represents students across the UNC system

Ross' proposal

President Ross talked to about 25 student leaders via video conference in the School of Business. He said that he spent most of December looking over universities' proposals for tuition, most of which were five-year plans.

He said he considered the proposals' impact on the quality of education, the impact of tuition hikes on families and students and the economic conditions over the near future while creating his own tuition proposal.

The major component of his two-year plan was a tuition increase of no more than 9 percent for the first year and no more than 4 percent for the second year.

Ross said his tuition plan differed from the state cap of 6.5 percent per year. He said the difference in tuition hikes between his plan and the state cap was $11.

Ross also talked about increasing revenue from sources outside of tuition and fees, including private donations from alumni and grants and contracts.

"Tuition will not solve our problems," Ross said.

State financial issues

Due to continued economic conditions, tax collections and other state and, consequently, have resulted in less money for the state budget. He said two shortfalls this year include a Medicaid shortfall and the exhaustion of federal stimulus funds, which kept many public school teachers employed.

ASG student representatives
Photo by Nick Phillips
ASG student representatives enjoy some down time Jan. 21. Tuition and fee increases were the main topic of discussion at the ASG meeting at UNCP.
As the state's budget decreased, education spending decreased as well. Ross said that in addition to the millions of dollars already cut from higher education, the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year includes another $9 million to $10 million cut from the UNC system.

Ross emphasized that a balance must be made between rising tuition costs and "stopping the bleeding" of decreasing state revenues.

Ross held no illusions about how costs affect a school's status.

"If we're going to remain a strong public university, we need to keep tuition and fees as low as we can," Ross said.

Ross said that if his tuition plan passes, the total gain for UNC schools will be $42 to $43 million after setting aside the mandated 25 percent of the new revenue for financial aid.

Ross said he will submit his proposal to the Board of Governors, who next meet in February. Ross said that "the debate may be intense" due to conflicts over whether more or fewer cuts are needed to the system's budget.

Other matters

After the video conference, the 25 student leaders met in council to discuss their position on Ross' proposal. They agreed that ASG President Atul Bhula from Appalachian State, will draft a letter of support for the proposal that the student body presidents will sign and finalize before the Board of Governors meeting.

The representatives also ap- proved $2,500 to be set aside for the ASG Leadership Conference in the spring.

After the council, all leaders and committee delegates regrouped and shared what they had accomplished in their committees.

At meeting's end, President Bhula praised the representatives on a day well spent.

"I think this is the most productive meeting we've had in a very long time," Bhula said.

Tuition is personal

Student leaders reminded each other and President Ross throughout the day that tuition hikes affect a student's life and education.

Student body Vice President Alecia Page of Western Carolina University told President Ross that she worked as a waitress, writing center employee and SGA representative to pay for school. She said some students came to her crying and afraid that they would not be able to return to school if tuition rose again.

Student body President Mary Cooper of UNC Chapel Hill said some students protest constantly for university accessibility.

"Students protest at Board of Trustees and tuition meetings... they care about UNC Chapel Hill," Cooper said.

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