Trustees approve local tuition charge, other fee increases, for 2002-03

CULLOWHEE – A proposed local tuition charge of $100 per semester for full-time students would enable Western Carolina University to enhance its curriculum and classroom teaching toward the overall goals of boosting educational quality for all students and improving Western’s student retention rate.

Western’s board of trustees approved the local tuition charge, during its quarterly meeting Thursday, Dec. 6, as part of a proposed schedule of student fees for the 2002-03 academic year.

“No one likes to charge people more,” WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo said. “But if we are going to increase costs it will either be to keep up with inflation or to increase quality. The local tuition we are proposing will be used to fundamentally improve educational quality.”

“For example, many of our freshman and sophomore classes are taught by part-time faculty members who do not earn fringe benefits and who frequently find they must work a variety of jobs in order to make ends meet. The ability for some departments to fund full-time status would give these valued instructors more time to prepare for class and to interact with their students during those important first and second years of study,” Bardo said.

“Increased interaction with better-prepared instructors in the classroom and beyond would greatly enhance our students’ learning experience,” Bardo said. “Strengthening those human connections, especially early in a student’s career, is a key to student satisfaction. It is a critical part of student success.”

Last year, Western announced it would begin work to address a long-standing problem of too many students – including many in good academic standing – leaving the university before graduating.

Thirty-five percent of all receipts realized from the local tuition would be set aside to provide need-based financial aid to qualifying students to hold them harmless from the financial impact of the local tuition increase.

Including the local tuition charge, total student fees and charges at Western would increase by 8.8 percent for fall semester 2002, pending approval of the UNC Board of Governors. Fees at Western for the next academic year are set as early as possible to give students and their families reasonable time to prepare for the financial requirements of attending the university.

The Board of Governors adopted a new policy in 2000 that permits campuses to approval local tuition surcharges. Ten of the 16 campuses of the UNC system have already done so, Chuck Wooten, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, told the trustees.

With the proposed increases, costs to attend Western in 2002-03 are expected to total about $6,333.10 per year for a typical in-state student living on campus and subscribing to the most popular food service plan, an increase of $511.30 per year.

“Last year, Western’s tuition and fees places us the third least costly university in the UNC system,” Wooten said. “With the fees proposed for next year, Western would remain in the bottom quarter within the system in terms of the cost of an education. Even with an increase of $511, our tuition and fees are still well below the national average of $11,976 per year.”

Among the approved fee increases:

– A $33.50 increase in the athletics fee, from $337.50 per year to $371, to continue implementing initiatives identified by a task force that examined WCU’s intercollegiate athletics program, including needs in the areas of athlete health and safety, support for women’s sports, and improvements to the level of competitiveness of all teams.

– A $31 increase in the student activities fees, from $314.50 per year to $345.50, to support additional evening and weekend activities and other student social, cultural and recreational programming. The increase also will help furnish and equip a major expansion of Hinds University Center, a project currently under way.

– A $5 increase in the health services fee, from $177 per year to $182, to expand wellness programs and health benefits for students, and to begin purchasing supplies and equipment for a new student health services facility, to be located in Bird Building upon the completion of a renovation now in the planning stages.

– A $10.50 increase in the education and technology fee, from $104.50 per year to $115, to replace and upgrade hardware in student computer labs and upgrade software packages currently in use.

Other fee increases include a hike of between 4.6 and 5 percent increase in the cost of meal plan options; a 5.4 percent increase in housing fees; a $3 increase in the cost of parking permits (from $32 to $35 per year for students, and from $37 to $40 for faculty/staff); and an $8 increase in the book rental fee (from $152 to $160).