Trustees approve proposed tuition, fees for 2010-11

Western Carolina University’s board of trustees today (Wednesday, Dec. 2) approved proposed tuition and fees for 2010-11, including a 6.5 percent increase in campus-based tuition that would fund programs providing additional support to students during their freshman and sophomore years to help keep them on track to graduate.

Approval is subject to concurrence by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The General Assembly earlier this year called for increases of 8 percent or $200, whichever is less, at UNC campuses next year, with all revenue raised from the tuition hike to go to the state’s General Fund. UNC system President Erskine Bowles plans to ask legislators to allow universities to keep revenue generated by the tuition increases.

If approved by the UNC board and endorsed by subsequent legislative action rescinding the previously approved statewide tuition increase, the local tuition charge would enable WCU to develop strategies to meet a systemwide priority of improving student retention and graduation rates. Western Carolina would form structures that would provide more rigorous orientation, academic advising, service learning programming and other support services for students during their first two years of higher education.

Although it would benefit all WCU freshmen and sophomores, the concept would especially support those who have not yet declared a major by providing them with a greater sense of community.

Half of the local tuition increase would be used for need-based financial aid.

The proposed increase in campus-based tuition also would enable WCU to continue implementing an institutional enhancement plan approved by a national accrediting body.

Called the Quality Enhancement Plan, it is designed to improve the quality of undergraduate education by helping students link academic and co-curricular activities, and synthesize experiences to demonstrate higher-level learning by applying in real-world settings what they have learned in the classroom.

“We want our students to have the best. They deserve the best,” said Steve Warren, chairman of the board of trustees. “Yet we also must be mindful of our state constitution, which requires us to provide public higher education as free from costs as possible. The task is to find that delicate balance.”

Board member Josh Cotton, president of the WCU Student Government Association, cast the lone dissenting vote and asked trustees to consider a smaller increase, perhaps between 5 and 6 percent.

Chancellor John Bardo said that WCU’s tuition proposal represents a better option for students and families. “We are going to argue with the Legislature that this is a better solution,” Bardo said. “This plan directly affects the quality of education for students, and it does not cost the students as much as the General Assembly’s plan.”

Western Carolina sets fees for the next academic year as early as possible to give students and their families time to prepare for the financial requirements of attending the university, said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance, who presented the proposed schedule of fees to the trustees.

With the proposed increases, costs to attend WCU in 2010-11 would total $10,027.50 per year for a typical in-state student living on campus and choosing the most-popular food service plan, an increase of 4.39 percent or $421.50 a year.

“Western Carolina would remain among the least-expensive institutions in the UNC system even with this modest increase,” Wooten said. “Our proposed schedule of tuition and fees reflects a desire across the system to keep the costs of higher education as low as possible and our WCU tradition of offering a high-quality education at a reasonable cost.”

Figures from the College Board reveal that the average cost to attend a U.S. public four-year institution in 2009-10 is $19,388, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other out-of-pocket expenses. That compares to $12,364 at WCU, when additional living expenses are included.

Among other proposed fee increases:

  • A $20 increase in the student activity fee (from $506 to $526 per year) for equipment and operation expenses at the recently opened Campus Recreation Center, and operating funds for a number of other student programs and activities.
  • An increase of $66.50 in the athletics fee (from $567 to $633.50) to provide funds to meet the rising cost of fielding intercollegiate athletics programs, including scholarships for student-athletes.
  • A $20 increase in the education and technology fee, from $343 a year to $363, for technology upgrades in classrooms, computer laboratories and residence halls, including expansion of the capacity of the campus computer network and improvements to student e-mail service.
  • A $7 increase in the transportation fee, from $53 per year to $60, to provide funds to operate a campus shuttle service that began in fall 2004, including vehicle maintenance, construction of shelters and rising fuel costs, and to gear up for the expansion of shuttle service to Millennial Initiative property on the west side of N.C. Highway 107, where a new health sciences building is scheduled to open in 2012.