Proposed fee increases for 2003-04 approved by WCU board of trustees

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University’s board of trustees has approved tuition and fee increases that total about 10 percent and will forward the proposed fee schedule for 2003-04 to The University of North Carolina Board of Governors, where the increases face an uncertain future.

The UNC Board of Governors’ budget and finance committee announced Thursday, Dec. 5, that it will propose a moratorium on tuition increases at all 16 system campuses to the full UNC board at its January meeting.

Despite the uncertainty, the Western Carolina board proceeded with its fee proposal at its quarterly meeting Friday, Dec. 6. 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, said Chuck Wooten, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, who presented the proposed fee schedule to the trustees.

Western’s proposed fee schedule includes a $113 increase in local tuition, from $200 per year to $313. The increase would provide funds for faculty salary raises – a step designed to help address salary deficiencies ranging from 2 percent to 42 percent, when salaries of Western faculty members are compared to those at similar institutions – and provide additional financial aid to need-based students, Wooten said.

With the proposed increases, costs to attend Western in 2003-04 are expected to total about $7,015.10 per year for a typical in-state student living on campus and subscribing to the most popular food service plan, an increase of $649 per year.

“For the current academic year, the total cost to attend Western is the third lowest in the UNC system,” Wooten said. “If our proposed schedule of fees were approved by the UNC board, and if other UNC campuses did not increase their fees, we would still be the sixth least expensive institution in the system. And we know that the other campuses will be increasing their fees, as well.”

Wooten told the board that the average cost to attend a four-year public institution in 2002-03 is $13,463 per year, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other out-of-pocket expenses. That compares to $8,684 per year at Western, when those additional living expenses are included.

Other proposed fee increases at Western:

– A $213 increase in debt service fees, including a $63 hike in athletics facilities debt service (from $86 per year to $149) to fund such major capital improvement projects for the intercollegiate athletics program as expansion of the football stadium, and creation of a new soccer/track and field complex and women’s softball field; and a new $150 student recreation debt service fee to fund construction of a 70,000 square-foot indoor recreation facility.

– A $37 increase in the athletics fee, from $371.50 per year to $408, to continue implementing initiatives identified by a task force that examined WCU’s intercollegiate athletics program, including needs in the areas of financial aid, support for women’s sports, and improvements to the level of competitiveness of all teams. The fee also would provide start-up funds for a women’s softball team.

– A $31 increase in the student activities fees, from $345.50 per year to $376.50, to support additional evening and weekend activities and other student social, cultural and recreational programming. The increase also would help furnish and equip a major expansion of A.K. Hinds University Center, a project currently under way.

– A $25 increase in the education and technology fee, from $115 per year to $140, to replace and upgrade hardware in student computer labs and upgrade software packages currently in use.

Other fee increases include a hike of between 1.7 and 4.65 percent in the cost of meal plan options and an increase in the cost of parking permits, from $35 to $50 per year for students and from $40 to $50 for faculty/staff. The housing fee for a standard, double-occupancy room would increase 8 percent, from $1,876 per year to $2,026, while the fee for a standard, single-occupancy room would decrease 9.5 percent, from $3,752 per year to $3,394.

Room rates for a new residence hall currently under construction would be $2,596 per year for a double-occupancy room and $3,654 for a single-occupancy room.