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Monday, May 20, 2024

Some UNCW students could see third consecutive tuition hike next year

UNCW is looking at potentially increasing tuition for out-of-state and graduate students. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON — Out-of-state and graduate UNCW students could pay hundreds more in tuition next school year pending approval from the board of trustees. 

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According to meeting documents, the UNCW board of trustees is planning to review UNC System tuition instructions at its quarterly meeting Friday, though the trustees are not scheduled to vote on the suggestions until December. 

The instructions show tuition increases for out-of-state and graduate students, as well as student fees.

If approved, the 2024-2025 school year will mark the third year in a row tuition costs have increased for out-of-state students. Around 20% of this year’s incoming class resides outside North Carolina. 

The documents show the UNC System is calling for a more-than-$1,000 increase from $19,063 to $20,111 per year for out-of-state students. Out-of-state graduate students would see a similar increase from $19,104 to $20,155 per year, while in-state graduates only get a slight rise from $4,719 to $4,979.

Tuition is used to pay for faculty and staff salaries, instruction and academic support costs, and student services. Not covered is room and board, meals, books, transportation and other expenses. The total estimated cost of attendance as measured by UNCW ranges from $27,030 per year for in-state students, $28,008 for nonresidents, and over $40,000 for graduate students. 

The tuition rate for in-state undergraduates would stay the same at $4,443 per year, a little under the UNC System’s average of $4,700. School year 2024-2025 will become the system’s eighth year of a tuition freeze for resident undergrads. 

UNC System President Peter Hans told WUNC last month the freeze is an effort to keep college education affordable for North Carolina students. He said he discussed the tuition freeze with every chancellor in the UNC system.

“Not one chancellor has indicated concern with me about continuing this course of action,” Hans said. “That we’ve been able to take a pause for eight years has been very important to the student debt levels being reduced. And that is a major priority of this board.”

Hans said he would like to see the pause on tuition increases extend a full decade, despite some worries over inflation’s impact on the system’s ability to do so.

However, in-state students wouldn’t get off without any higher bills. 

Mandatory fees, which cover student activities and are collected from all students, are also could go up from $2,690 to $2,769 in total. The UNC System has mandated any increases must be used to maintain core activities supported by the fee and cannot go toward expanding services. Hikes also cannot exceed 3%.

Part of the fee total is a $45 increase for athletics, $11 for student activities and $13 for student health to respond to “inflationary pressures,” according to the instructions. 

The additional tuition monies would be adjustments relative to their alignment with the new strategic plan and UNC system metrics, according to the meeting documents.

UNCW unveiled its strategic plan in August with four key pillars: unparalleled opportunities, nationally prominent programs, accessibility and visibility within the community, and world-class operations and infrastructure.

Fully embracing its R2 research classification, the plan outlines the need to expand academic programs in high-demand areas, such as STEM and health care. This goes along with and research that is regionally relevant and globally important, with consideration of UNCW’s role as a coastal university.

The university also has infrastructure needs to support its burgeoning campus. First-year student enrollment reached the highest number in UNCW’s history this August at 17,843, though there were not enough rooms to house all students when they moved in. 

An overflow of 245 freshmen are housed in the dorms’ common areas and office areas, where there’s space for three to four residents. Double and triple rooms have enough space to add an extra bed. Although, the board of trustees are set to consider moving those students to off-campus housing covered by the university. 

The university is also undergoing a campus master plan. It could potentially include more housing and other student living structures if the university plans to expand enrollment while requiring freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. 

The tuition instructions will be reviewed during the board of trustees’ business affairs committee meeting on Friday at 10:45 a.m.

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the proposed tuition increases are part of the UNC System’s instructions, not UNCW’s proposal. PCD regrets the error.]

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at 

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