CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina's public university system is writing a budget for next year that includes no tuition increases for undergraduates who live in the state and raises fees by an average less than any time in the past five years.
The University of North Carolina's governing board Thursday began weighing plans to raise fees that pay for athletics, health services, student activities and technology by an average of about 4 percent next fall. North Carolina State University students would pay $108 more in fees, while North Carolina Central University students would be spared any increase.
There would be no increase in tuition for the 2014-15 academic year if the UNC Board of Governors approves the plan next month. UNC campuses have increased average tuition by 55 percent since 2007-08, before the national recession forced sharper cuts in taxpayer funding, the state's public universities remain among the country's lowest cost, the university system said.
The state Legislature ordered tuition increases of 12 percent next year for out-of-state students attending campuses in Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. Out-of-state tuition will rise 6 percent at most other campuses.
The 17-campus UNC system is under pressure from state lawmakers to do more with less money from taxpayers and students, so university officials have been trying to show the belt-tightening has made a difference.
"We've worked hard to become more efficient. We've reduced the cost per degree when you adjust for inflation by 17 percent while we're producing 17 percent more degrees," UNC System President Tom Ross said.
The university governing board now is working on a request for state funding for next year that would be about $94 million more than this year, but still less than it was a year ago. About $21 million of that would go toward helping more students who enter state universities complete degrees. That includes encouraging more enrollment in summer classes to keep campus facilities in use year-round and discounting the out-of-state tuition now being paid by about 600 enrolled military veterans.
There were 220,000 students enrolled at UNC campuses last fall, a decrease of almost 900 students from the previous year.
Another $10 million in the proposed budget request to lawmakers would go toward converting more research discoveries into new products. Research in advanced manufacturing, data science, defense and security, energy, marine sciences, and pharmaceuticals engineering would get the special attention because those sectors mesh with Gov. Pat McCrory's priorities for boosting the state's economy.