As you may have read in today's paper, tuition bills are headed to public university students this week, and they may be a good bit larger than many anticipate.
That's thanks to a supplemental tuition hike signed off on just last week by UNC system President Erskine Bowles. University leaders are raising tuition very reluctantly, and say it's the sole source of revenue critical to the day-to-day academic operations of the campuses.
Though parents may not see it this way, the UNC system remains a good deal when compared with other public institutions. And it is that comparison that campus officials at UNC-Chapel Hill were trumpeting this week.
Speaking to campus trustees, Carolina Provost Bruce Carney pointed out that, even with a sizable increase, tuition and fees at UNC-CH this fall will be $6,665 for undergraduate North Carolinians.
Here's how that compares with the university's public peers. This is what many of the public institutions with which Carolina most often compares itself charges for their own in-state undergraduates.
- Virginia - $10,808
- Michigan - $11,837
- UCLA - $10,781
- Texas - $8,618
- Florida - $5,020
- Wisconsin - $9,050
"We remain a very competitive deal," Carney concluded. "We're still an incredible bargain."
It's good information and an interesting look at how costly comparable institutions can be. But does it matter to students and parents?
Here's the thing: Virginia's in-state tuition rate doesn't matter to a high school senior in North Carolina because he or she would pay the out-of-state rate to go to school in Charlottesville.
That's $33,774 annually, so if a North Carolinian was choosing between Carolina and Virginia and cost was a key in the decision, Chapel Hill would probably be the winning destination.
And those public peer institutions aren't necessarily the top competitors for the students also considering Carolina, said Stephen Farmer, UNC-CH's director of undergraduate admissions.
In fact, talented North Carolinians considering UNC often also consider several private institutions in North Carolina like Duke, Davidson and Wake Forest, Farmer said. Others, like N.C. State, Virginia, Appalachian State and UNC-Wilmington, are often in the mix as well.
Farmer doesn't expect Carolina's tuition hike to have a significant impact in terms of how many applications come across his desk.
"Tuition is so low for North Carolinians, we'd have to increase increase tuition a ton to really affect a kid's decision to apply or enroll," he said.