ASU chancellor will seek tuition hike
By Frank Ruggiero
Though certainly a feather in Yosef’s hat, Appalachian State University’s recently approved nursing initiative is but one of several sizable undertakings at the university.
The largest, perhaps, won’t be seen under construction on campus, but rather on billing invoices. Though the University of North Carolina Board of Governors have essentially placed a $322 cap on comprehensive university campus-based tuition and fee increases, ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock is seeking nearly twice that amount for the 2006 fall semester.
“It’s that time of year again,” Peacock said. “Last year, there was no tuition increase at all for any school in the UNC system.”
The administration strongly favored an increase for 2004-05, and even went through a survey process on campus, determining students, faculty and trustees supported an increase, Peacock said.
“And the board of governors came out and said we’re not doing that this year, so nobody got an increase last year,” Peacock said. “We got our budget this year, we did get our equity increase money, and that’s good news; but that’s offset immediately by the management flexibility reduction that kicks in every year.”
In response, a number-crunching study is now underway, and Peacock said Greg Lovins of business affairs and Tim Burwell of academic affairs have met with students and faculty “to begin looking at what the needs are.”
“We find that on this campus...that [raising tuition] is very distasteful, having to ask the students to pay more tuition and fees to come to Appalachian,” Peacock said. “But we’re not getting it from the state, and we don’t see it coming, so we feel that to have a quality program and to maintain the Appalachian spirit that’s made us a school of choice, we have to do that.
“We’ve got to have some dollars coming into campus for faculty, staff, programs, support, students — in every area — for technology, to hire more professors, to keep our salary packages in line with comparable schools.”
When the UNC system OK’d campus-based tuition in 2000, Appalachian chose not to raise tuition, with Peacock saying administration found an increase to be “very distasteful then, just as we do now.”
However, all the other UNC campuses that did increase tuition have benefited from an increased revenue stream for five years, and Peacock wants ASU to catch up.
“We need a year to catch up and close the gap,” he said. “It’s not an inequity or anything in funding, but it’s different than the funding formula, because we chose in that first year not to go forward.”
Peacock hopes this will serve as an adequate exception to exempt ASU from the $322 tuition and fee increase limit.
According to the governors’ document, the system’s vice president for finance may seek guidance from chancellors “regarding unique campus circumstances that may require campus proposals inconsistent with the guidelines.”
“I need to have the ability to ask for that,” Peacock said. “I’m hoping that my students, faculty and trustees will accept my proposal to close that gap some, and we’ll see as the process goes on.”
Peacock doesn’t intend to be hasty in raising tuition, and plans on plenty of pondering and campus input. As for a dollar amount, he provided a round number estimate of $600.
“We’d have to be able to defend exactly how we’ll use this,” he said, adding that actual line item figures won’t be ready for presentation until November or December, when the proposal is presented to the board of governors and board of trustees, respectively.
“Of course, those students on financial aid, in the past, have been held harmless, and they’ll continue to be held harmless if this goes forward.”
By November, Peacock must notify the governors that he’s looking for an exception to the guidelines. The trustees will consider his proposal at their December meeting.
He expects the governors to reach a decision in February 2006, when system president-elect Erskine Bowles will be in office.
“Which is interesting, too, because we’re starting the process under one president of the system, and we’ll end it under another president of the system,” Peacock said.
“So, you wonder what his take on this is going to be, what his philosophy is going to be on this.”
• Frank Ruggiero may be contacted