Saturday, December 2, 2023

UNCW proposes raising tuition, fees, housing and meal plans to bring in millions next year

UNCW’s board of trustees will hold a special meeting Friday to hear the university’s request for tuition and fee increases for next school year. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON — Some students could see tuition increases at UNCW next school year, with student-wide fees set to rise as well. 

UNCW’s board of trustees will hold a special meeting Friday to hear the university’s request for the price hikes. Under the proposal, tuition would increase 5.5% for undergraduate non-residents and graduate students. Student fees, paid by all 18,000 students enrolled, along with housing and meal plan costs, would also go up. 

READ MORE: UNCW looks to divide arts and sciences, faculty cautious of consequences

Board of trustees’ approval would prompt out-of-state enrollees to pay over $1,000 more per year to attend UNCW; undergraduates would pay $20,112 and graduates would pay $20,155 per year. In-state graduate students would see a less severe increase of $260 up to $4,979 per year. 

An increase for in-state undergraduates was deemed off the table for the seventh year in a row to keep costs manageable for students. North Carolina ranks in the top five states when it comes to college affordability. 

The additional tuition funds will total nearly $2.34 million in revenue to the school.

Tuition monies are intended to cover the education provided by a university, such as academic support services and library operations. While salaries are funded by state appropriations, tuition money can be used to supplement that funding.

According to an online PowerPoint presentation prepared for Friday, the increases are mostly geared toward pay raises and hiring new staff to accommodate the influx of students over the past few years. 

In 2021, the university surpassed 18,000 total students and has reached record enrollment numbers for several years. The freshman class entering in fall 2021 was over 3,500 students, a number matched by that year’s graduate class. Both classes made UNCW records. Non-residents made up 20% of this year’s incoming class.

The largest portion of the additional revenue — $1.05 million — will go toward need-based aid for around 300 students. Half-a-million would be reserved for undergraduate merit-based scholarships and $77,000 will be spent on library resources “to support faculty and students in recently-launched degree programs.” 

The remaining $707,000 would be used for obtaining and retaining faculty — stipends and scholarships for graduate teaching assistants, an additional counselor for the counseling center and contributions to the faculty and staff retention fund.

UNCW responded after publication and told Port City Daily there is no additional information at this time on how many graduate teaching assistants will be hired with the funds.

UNCW’s Student Government Association was split 19-18 on supporting the resolution at its Nov. 8 meeting. While its vote does not restrain trustee action, it gauges student temperature on the issue. 

Out of 20 top competitors for out-of-state students, 19 institutions have higher tuition, according to UNCW’s prepared presentation. Keeping in line with market conditions is one part of UNCW’s rationale for the rising tuition, along with providing a recurring revenue stream for “critical needs” of the institution. 

“[The increase] takes a measured approach to tuition increases in order to remain sensitive to overall price for both current and future students,” the PowerPoint presentation indicates. 

If approved, this will be the second year in a row tuition spiked for out-of-state students; this school year, tuition increased around $550 for undergraduate and graduate students. Tuition for in-state students has not risen in four fiscal years. 

Student fees are mandatory and support specific activities, such as athletics and campus activities. They are broken down to demonstrate the amounts and their destinations, but student fees as a whole are capped at a 3% increase. For next school year, the goal is to raise the total cost by $80 to a total of $2,874. Here again, the university is looking to boost salaries with the additional revenue. 

Included in the fee increase is more money for Campus Life staff, including student employees, to be accomplished with a $10.50 more to student fees. The money would allow student staff within the department to receive $4 pay raises next fiscal year, bringing the top wage to $15.50. 

If approved, UNCW Athletics would also boost salaries with a $45 fee increase and Student Health would use an additional $24 in fees for the same purpose, along with covering higher-priced medical supplies affected by inflation.

The Campus Life fee would put UNCW having the fourth-highest student activity fee in the UNC System, which includes 14 other colleges across North Carolina.  However, its student health fee would still rank second-lowest, while athletics would remain middle-of-the-pack. 

Students, who are mandated to live on campus their freshman and sophomore years, will also pay more for housing. All residence hall pricing will increase by 4%. Students in the dorms will pay between $253 to $293 more annually, while those in the upperclassmen housing will pay around $350 more. Students in UNCW’s newest residence halls, completed last year, could pay between $324 and $365 more, with the highest housing cost totalling $9,688 per year. 

The increases would make UNCW the fifth-highest in housing costs in the UNC System. 

Meal plans, also a requirement for certain on-campus students, are set to increase by 6%, resulting in more than $100 additions to the thousand-dollar plans. Those required to use one can expect to pay between $1,949 and $2,249 per semester for campus meals. 

UNCW’s Media Relations Specialist Krissy Vick told Port City Daily higher pricing for housing and meal plans are neccessary to “due to inflation in the costs associated with providing housing and dining, as well as for the costs of maintaining the necessary facilities.”

At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Student Government Association supported the Campus Life and Student Health fee increases in 37-1 votes, while the Athletics fee was approved 22-16. 

Overall, UNCW’s annual cost of attendance would increase by $580. An in-state undergraduate living on campus could expect to pay $25,388 per year if the board of trustees approves UNCW’s request. 

The board of trustees will meet Friday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. to discuss the potential changes.

Editor’s Note: UNCW responded to an information request shortly after publication; the article has been updated with those additions.

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at 

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