YOURS AT CN}OLINA
Article Nine, Section Nine
Ail0ng the most significant and, at the time, trou- bling things I learned in my freshman year was that lUch of which I had assumed to be black or white
really was gray. I grew up in a home where, when we
finally had a television, it was black and white, and my par-
ents always reassured my brothers and me that the charac-
ters wearing the white hats were good and the ones in
black hats were bad. Carolina taught me that people, issues
and events usually are much more complicated than that.
An issue vital to Carolina's future that too often is pre-
sented as simple is that of when and by how much
to raise undergraduate tuition.Article IX, Section
9 of the N.C. Constitution reads as follows:
"The General Assembly shall provide that the
benefits of The University of North Carolina and
other public institutions of higher education, as
far as practicable, be extended to the people of the
State free ojexpmse. " (That's the wording, with
emphasis added, from the N.c. Constitution as
amended in 1971; similar language first appeared
in the state constitution enacted in 1868.)
Carolina's undergraduate tuition for North Carolina resi-
dents, presendy $2,328, always has been among the lowest
in the country. It remains so today despite an increase of
$1,506, or 183 percent, over the past decade.
Among the questions that continue to be debated are:
• Is the constitutional mandate being violated?
• Does higher tuition deny access to Carolina or dis-
courage some from applying?
• What is the proper balance in sources offunding to
maintain and enhance Carolina's excellence?
Clearly, over many generations North Carolinians as
reflected through the General Assembly have generously
funded higher education. Many believe that this public sup-
port not only is because of the pride North Carolinians
have for our campus but also their sense that a world-class
education remains within reach for all North Carolinians.
Yet, we also know that, as are other states, North Car-
olina is devoting a declining percentage of the state budget
to higher education - down to 12. 9 percent in 2000 from
17. 4 percent in 1986. Today, 29 percent of our campus
budget comes from state appropriations; 15 years ago, that
percentage was 43 percent.
The increases in campus-initiated tuition in recent years
have come with a conmutment to set aside a substantial
portion of the revenues generated for financial aid, and
Carolina continues to meet the financial aid needs of all
North Carolina undergraduate students. Further, several
studies show that those institutions that do the best job in
preserving access to needy students are those that couple
high tuition with generous packages for financial aid.
Today's tuition at Carolina is 2. 8 percent of the North
Carolina median fanlliy income, estimated to be $60,656.
Too often, there is an unwillingness to acknowledge that
students are ill-served if the quality of their educational
experience is dinunished because of under funding. Some
are concerned by Carolina's reported decline in Us. News
& World Report's annual rankings from ninth to 28th in the
past 15 years. Many are particularly alarmed that US. News
ranks Carolina 72nd in faculty resources. And with antici-
pated retirements, Carolina will need to replace one-third
to halfof our faculty in the coming decade.
Understandably, alumni want to see the value of Car-
olina diplomas continue to appreciate in value, and we have
demonstrated a willingness to contribute generously to sup-
port Carolina. However, alumni expect our gifts to provide
the margin ofexcellence and do not envision our financial
contributions merely replacing state appropriations.
Had the University not had available the revenues fi·om
a $300-per-student campus-based tuition increase, which
generated a pool of roughly $7 million, each UNC facuJty
member wouJd have received a salary increase this year
totaling only $625 - as did all other state employees.
Some argue that it is unfair for North Carolina tax pay-
ers to support Carolina students whose parents easily could
contribute much more toward their education; others argue
that all North Carolinians benefit from a better-educated
work force. The bottom line is that none of us is in the
habit ofasking to pay full price on an item that is on sale.
For North Carolinians, a UNC education has been a bar-
gain for generations, and it is likely that Carolina's in-state
tuition will remain a bargain. How do we address our desire
to be faithful to the constitutional mandate for low tuition,
the need to retain and recruit top faculty who will ensure
Carolina's excellence, a declining portion of the state budget
appropriated to higher education, an expectation that pri-
vate gifts won't simply replace what shouJd be legislative
support, and a conmutment to ensure that Carolina is
accessible to all who earn admission, regardless of their
No, tuition is not a black-and-white issue, and the con-
sequences of tuition increases are important for us all.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ' 70
ja/'ll/arl' l February 2002