Students at Western Carolina University will pay slightly more to reside, dine and park on campus after the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees endorsed a new schedule of rates for the 2018-19 academic year, but a new tuition plan taking effect in the fall will result in a significant drop in the overall cost of attendance.
Unanimous approval of the rate increases came during the board’s quarterly meeting Friday, Dec. 1.
Historically, the December meeting of WCU’s Board of Trustees is when tuition and fees are set for the following school year, but actions by the N.C. General Assembly last year have altered that longstanding practice. WCU is among three University of North Carolina institutions selected for inclusion in the NC Promise tuition plan, which will reduce out-of-pocket tuition costs for in-state undergraduate students at those three schools to $500 per semester beginning fall 2018.
In addition to NC Promise, last year’s budget legislation also locks in tuition expenses at all other UNC system schools so that students will pay the same amount each semester for four years and caps the cumulative total of increases in all mandatory student fees to 3 percent per year. WCU officials opted against seeking any increase in mandatory student fees for the coming year.
With the rate changes approved by the board, WCU’s average total cost of attendance in 2018-19, including standard residence hall accommodations and the most-popular meal plan, will be $12,738 per year (fall and spring semester) for a typical N.C. undergraduate student. That represents a reduction of $2,579 per year over current year costs, a nearly 17 percent decrease, said Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Residence hall room rates at WCU will increase by an average of 3.2 percent beginning with the 2018 fall semester, with costs ranging from $4,796 per year for a standard double-occupancy room to $7,452 for a private room in Balsam and Blue Ridge residence halls. The rate increases will help the university cover the costs of rising operational expenses and build reserves needed to renovate or replace some of WCU’s older residence halls, said Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Meal plan charges will rise by an average of 3.5 percent next academic year, with a new cost of $3,976 per year for the most-popular dining plan option. The increases are needed to help meet the expenses associated with food and dining service personnel, Miller said.
The trustees also approved a revised slate of tiered charges for student parking permits. Under a long-term plan adopted by the trustees in December 2013 and launched in the fall of 2015, student permits are sold on the basis of earned academic credits, with freshmen paying the highest rates while seniors and graduate students pay lower rates.
Those rates will increase by an average of $56.50 annually through the revised two-year plan, effective fall 2018. As long as students continue to make adequate academic progress by meeting semester-hour requirements needed to graduate in four years, their parking rates should remain constant from one year to the next, said Mike Byers, vice chancellor for administration and finance. Revenue generated through the increase will service debt for construction of a planned parking structure. Parking rates for faculty and staff, which are based on salary ranges, will remain unchanged.
The modest increases in rates for residence hall rooms, dining plans and parking permits will be more than offset by the impact of the reduced tuition expenses when NC Promise takes effect in the fall, said Miller.
The action by the trustees comes after a series of meetings held by a campus tuition and fee committee, including two open campus discussions, a town hall sponsored by the Student Government Association, an interactive live video-streamed session hosted on the university’s social media platforms, and an online survey that prompted more than 850 responses.