A burden for in-state students

By: - August 5, 2005 5:19 am

Raleigh News & Observer


CHAPEL HILL — The state appropriations bill for 2005-07 as passed by the Senate — but not by the House of Representatives — would declare by law that every non-resident full scholarship undergraduate in any of the 16 institutions of the University of North Carolina system "shall be considered and treated for all purposes of The University …as a resident of North Carolina.’ That difference between the two houses is now under consideration in the legislative conference committee.

One effect of the Senate provision would be that 2,800 non-resident students would no longer be counted against the university’s 18 per cent limit on out-of-state freshman enrollment. That would reduce by 2,800 the number of North Carolina residents who can be assured of university admission.

More significantly for present purposes, each such non-resident student would be charged the institution’s in-state tuition rate, not the out-of-state rate as a present. That would mean a differential of up to $13,800 per student per year. The total cost ultimately would be $32 million a year.

The gainers? Not the scholarship students. They pay no cost of their education now. The real beneficiaries would be the private foundations and athletic booster organizations that sponsor their scholarships.

The losers? All other students, who would have to pay higher tuition in order to fill the $32 million deficit that would result when the proposed legislation is fully effective. That is no accident. The legislation so requires. The Senate’s legislation expressly provides that "no State funds shall be expended to offset any fiscal impact of this action." The institutions have no other sufficient source of funds — and undergraduate tuition of North Carolina residents has already risen by 80 per cent over the last five years.

For decades, under mandate of the General Assembly, the constituent institutions of the university have charged out-of-state students tuition rates much higher than those charged North Carolina residents. That policy recognizes that in-state residents and their families typically have contributed financially to the university through their taxes, while non-residents generally have not done so. (There is no difference between fees and other charges paid by in-state and out-of-state students.)

The proposed burden shift would be grossly unfair to the paying students and their families, while it would benefit wealthy foundations and athletic booster organizations. It would contradict long-standing legislative policy that all out-of-state students or their financial sponsors shall pay substantially higher rates of tuition.

The conference committee should follow the lead of the House of Representatives and reject the Senate proposal.

(John L. Sanders is professor of public law and government, emeritus, at UNC-Chapel Hill.)

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066