BOONE — As required by the state, tuition costs at Appalachian State will remain unchanged for the third year in a row. But university leaders are recommending the maximum 3 percent increase in fees for 2019-20.
The proposed fee increases include a $23 increase in the athletics fee to $778 per year, a $54 increase in total debt service fees to $688 per year, a $10 increase in the ed, rec & REI (student activities) fee to $386 per year and a $3 increase in the cultural affairs fee to $45 per year.
Paul Forte, Appalachian State vice chancellor for business affairs, presented the proposed tuition and fee recommendations to the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees Business Affairs Committee on Dec. 6.
According to meeting materials, the proposed $23 athletics fee increase would generate $400,000 in additional revenue. Plans for the additional funds include $200,000 in additional scholarship funding, and $100,000 for sports medicine investments, including seven full-time athletic trainers and seven intern athletic trainers and compensation increases for athletic trainers. Another $60,000 would fund a full-time counseling position — to be housed in the university Counseling Center and also available to non-athletes — and $40,000 is slated for facilities operations and maintenance costs.
The athletics fee is the highest student fee at Appalachian.
The $10 increase in the ed, rec and REI fee would produce a projected $186,000 to support mandatory cost increases, for example, steam and labor rates; planning for a relocated Career Development Center and planning for a new Campus Rec & Wellness Center, according to the materials.
The $3 increase in the cultural affairs fee would generate approximately $54,000 annually to support Schaefer Center equipment maintenance, repair and depreciation; maintenance and repair of artwork loaned across campus by the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts; and additional student staff to provide usage of the Turchin Center for academic units and other campus-wide groups.
A breakdown of debt service fee changes included an $84 increase — from $14 to $98 — for the infrastructure improvement debt service fee. Forte said the fee revenues would help the university set aside funds for repairs and renovations. University leaders have long noted the mounting costs of deferred maintenance on campus, with state funding for repairs and renovations, or “R&R,” limited in recent years. Specifically, leaders say the $1.5 million annual increase would support improvements including, but not limited to, ADA accessibility, flood mitigation, hazardous materials abatement, building envelope repairs, and roads, walkways and masonry.
The recommended debt service fees also include a decrease in the athletics facilities debt service fee of $30 (to a yearly $215), resulting in the net $54 debt service fee increase.
Other general fees proposed to remain the same in 2019-20 include the educational and technology fee, $576; marching band, $5; health services, $325; student union, $228; campus security, $30; and Association of Student Governments fee, $1.
In a departure from past years, proposals for room, board, parking, book rentals and other service charges were not brought to the trustees at the December meeting. Forte said these charges could be reviewed and approved by the trustees in the spring.
Tuition for in-state undergraduate students is proposed to remain at $4,242 in 2019-20, as mandated by the fixed tuition policy enacted by the N.C. General Assembly in 2016.
General Statute §116-143.9 required that, beginning with the fall 2016 semester, tuition rates at all UNC institutions would be fixed for eight consecutive semesters for all resident bachelor’s degree-seeking freshmen. In addition, tuition rates for other currently enrolled resident undergraduates and eligible transfer students would be fixed for an appropriate number of consecutive semesters, according to the UNC system.
The state also capped student fee increases at 3 percent beginning with the 2017-18 academic year.
The UNC system advised that market-driven tuition increases are permitted for non-resident undergraduates and all graduate students, but ASU leaders did not recommend increases in any tuition rates. The in-state graduate tuition is currently $4,839, out-of-state undergraduate tuition is $19,049 and out-of-state graduate tuition is $18,271.
Prior to the new fixed tuition policy, in-state tuition increases at Appalachian had generally ranged between 5 and 6.5 percent each year since 2010, according to previous reports by the Watauga Democrat.
Proponents of the policy say it affords in-state undergraduates at state public universities the opportunity to complete a degree quickly and affordably and provides predictability for those financing a college education.
But university leaders have indicated that the tuition cap has hampered their ability to fund certain needs, such as faculty salary increases.
In response to recent criticism from the Faculty Senate about the lack of merit-based raises for faculty this year, ASU leaders noted that tuition revenue has been a funding source for salary increases in recent years.
“Without a tuition increase, the recurring funding for salary increases has to come from other sources that also support the academic learning environment,” university spokesperson Megan Hayes said.
The tuition and fee proposals were to go before the full board of trustees on Dec. 7 for approval, to be followed by a presentation to the UNC system Board of Governors in January. Final approval by the BOG is slated for March.