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August 14, 2002 Top StoriesCampus defends reading choiceMoeser to give State of University AddressA bigger, better campus takes shapeMore StoriesNews BriefsConstruction WatchResearch NewsMoving ForwardCarolina GreenFaculty Staff News and NotesPhoto PageCalendarComplete Contents

 

More Stories

•   High matriculation rates save time — and money
•   Forum hears minority view
•   Carolina Calendar is the online place to see and list events
•   New advisory committee replaces TPAC
•   Public service center to hold open house
•   Trustees receive construction status report
•   ATN to offer online registration beginning Aug. 20


High matriculation rates save time –
and money

Time is money, the old business adage goes, but it is well worth considering how the power of that principle applies to the enterprise of higher education as well.

Increasingly, students are taking more than four years to get their undergraduate degrees. And inevitably, the longer it takes for a student to graduate, the greater the expense for not only the students and their families but for state taxpayers who cover a sizeable part of the tab.

And the money it takes to send a child to a public university in North Carolina has become the subject of concern in recent years.
One reason is the state’s budget and its continuing shortfalls.
One reason at Carolina is the pattern of campus-based tuition increases begun in the mid-1990s.

Another reason throughout the country is the enrollment pressures created by the “baby boomlet” bulge — the children of Baby Boomers who will increase student populations through the end of the decade.

In July The News & Observer ran a front-page story that examined why students are taking longer to graduate and how that trend has put a growing financial strain on state taxpayers as well as parents.

Nationally, about a third of the students in public universities graduate in four years, the newspaper reported. Within the 16-member UNC system, the only other research university, N.C. State University, posted a 26.5 percent four-year graduation rate. Fayetteville State University had the worst rate at 18 percent.
The one university in the system that exceeded the average, The News & Observer reported, was Carolina, with a graduate rate approaching 70 percent.

University trustees touched on the issue in May while reviewing a comparison of Carolina’s graduation rates and the elite institutions of the American Association of Universities (AAU) to which it belongs.

Consider:
* Sixty-eight percent of the Carolina freshmen earn four-year degrees within four years, compared to only 40 percent enrolled at all AAU institutions.

* Seventy-eight percent of Carolina students earn degrees within five years, compared to 63 percent among AAU members.

* Eighty-two percent of Carolina students have graduated within six years, compared with 67 percent of AAU students.
Perhaps most revealing is the fact that seven out of 10 students at Carolina take four years to graduate, while it takes six years for about the same number of students to graduate from all AAU schools.

Trustees viewed the data as proof the University is doing something right. Trustee Chair Timothy Burnett also saw it as an opportunity and suggested some calculating be done to see how much state money could be saved by improving Carolina’s matriculation rate still further.

Burnett may be on to something. According to recent data from the Office of Institutional Research, state appropriations to Carolina equate to a per-student expense of about $15,000 every year. Assuming a freshman class consists of about 3,500 students, the state spends about $52.5 million a year for each class entering Carolina.

If every one of those students took one year longer to graduate, the state’s cumulative expense would rise to $262.5 million. Add another year to complete their education, and the cost zooms to $315 million.

As Burnett well understands, time is money. And at Carolina, few students are wasting either of them.

Looking behind the numbers
Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, said she believes Burnett was on the right track to call attention to the financial benefits of Carolina’s exceptional matriculation rates. But Ort said it is no less important for people to understand how Carolina has achieved the matriculation rates it has.

More precisely, she said, it is important for people to understand all the factors that contribute to this record of success. And some of the factors that do not.

Over the past several years, a series of student tuition increases have garnered both headlines and criticism by some who argue that the hikes may be pricing worthy, low-income students out of college.

People can make philosophical and legal arguments against the tuition increases based on the state constitution that exhorts legislators to keep tuition as “low as practicable,” Ort said. What they cannot do is argue that tuition hikes are pricing poor students out of college.

It’s just not happening at Carolina, Ort said, and the reason is because trustees have repeatedly earmarked a portion of additional tuition revenues to increase the amount of money available for need-based student aid.

“We’ve been able to do that because there are Board of Trustees and Board of Governors members who are making responsible decisions in the context of these budget pressures about putting aside money for grant assistance,” Ort said.

In recent years, the pool of money available for financial aid has increased as the result of the tuition increases because fixed percentages of the revenue generated by the increases have been earmarked in advance for that purpose.

During the 2001-02 academic year, 35 percent of revenues, or $2.48 million, from the campus-based $300 tuition increase was used for student aid. The same 35 percent formula was applied to the $300 tuition increase approved for the 2000-01 academic year to generate an additional $2.43 million for student aid.

This past spring, the UNC Board of Governors approved another $300 increase for the 2002-03 academic year, which was $100 less than what University trustees had sought. The University has earmarked 40 percent of the revenues generated by the higher tuition for need-based aid and salaries for graduate students.

This money is augmented with other pre-existing funding for need-based aid. For instance, the University has more than 1,000 different scholarship funds that are awarded each year. Most of these scholarships are financed through private giving and awarded as need-based aid.

Another source of income for grants is a portion of the revenues Carolina gets from its trademark licensing agreement with Nike. And it’s a source of money that is increasing. The University will get about $2.5 million from Nike to pay out in grants, an increase of about $420,000 from a year ago, Ort said.

By having adequate funding to offer such aid, Ort said, Carolina has been able to neutralize the lack of money as a factor that stops or slows students’ progress in getting through college.

A hard sell
Still, Ort said, getting people to believe that is a hard sell, particularly for those who care about education the most. Ort recalled how former UNC President William Friday called her in advance of a talk he was scheduled to give for graduation week. He wanted assurance that the latest tuition increase would not end up pricing the poor out of Carolina. “He said, ‘Shirley, are we OK? Are we really OK?’ And I said, ‘Yes, Bill, we are.’”

And then she proceeded to explain why.

“People who support low tuition are really saying, ‘We don’t want to freeze out poor kids. We want low-income people to have an opportunity to come here to school,’” she said.

Ort said she embraces those same values, but keeping tuition at Carolina lower than all but a handful of other state flagship universities is not the only way to remain faithful to them.

Demographics within the state of North Carolina have changed as well, changes that are reflected in the fact that median household income for incoming students exceeds $80,000 a year.

If recent trends continue, about four out of 10 entering freshmen will come from families earning $100,000 or more. In contrast, if recent patterns hold, two out of 10 freshmen will come from families earning $50,000 or less. In recent years, the average parental income for students getting nothing but need-based aid has been close to $50,000.

Given these numbers, Ort believes most students come from families who can afford to pay higher tuition, especially when one considers that, even after the series of tuition increases, tuition at Carolina still ranks at or near the bottom of the chart for both state flagship universities and select peer groups that include competitors such as Penn State and the University of Virginia.

“Different circumstances and different times require an adaptation to those pressures, and I believe we are demonstrating here at Carolina that you can make those adaptations and protect access and still charge a reasonable tuition price for those people who can well afford to pay it,” Ort said.

The financial aid package for qualified students who apply before the March 1 deadline consists of 65 percent of grants. The remaining 35 percent consists of a combination of loans and work-study programs through which students earn from $1,800 to $3,200 per year.

This year, as in previous years, the University has been able to meet that commitment. What is different this year, however, is that there will not be enough grant money for all qualified students who applied after the March 1 deadline because of a dramatic increase in the number of students who have applied — and qualified — for aid, Ort said.

This year, there has been a 3 percent increase in freshmen who applied by the deadline and qualified for aid. There also was a 10 percent increase in qualified applicants among upperclassmen and graduate students. Finally, there was a 13 percent increase in transfer students who applied and qualified for aid.

And that will mean students who applied late may not get the same proportion of grant money, which will leave them working more hours or racking up more loan debt that they will have to pay off after graduating.

This is a cause for concern, Ort said, but she found some reassurance in the findings of a recent study by the American Council on Education titled, Access & Persistence: Findings from 10 years of Longitudinal Research on Students.

The study revealed that two of the strongest determinants of a student’s success were the rigor of their high school curriculum and the educational backgrounds of their parents.

The perils faced by all first-generation college students that can lead to them getting off track or behind are neutralized at Carolina by an academic advising process that seeks to not only guide them with career choices but to provide encouragement and support when needed. Carolina also requires all students to start their freshman and junior years in the College of Arts and Sciences, a requirement designed to help students both select and prepare for a major.

The study also found that requiring students to work can actually increase the likelihood of their staying in school as long as the number of hours stays below 23 a week. It helps, too, if the work is on campus or, if off campus, is related to their field of study, Ort said.

Even if Carolina could afford to give need-based grants to cover 100 percent of out-of-pocket expenses, Ort argues it would be a bad idea to do it.

When a student becomes invested in the cost of his or her education — either by working or by committing future income to pay off loan debts — that student is more likely to persist in completing his or her degree.

At Carolina, Ort is convinced, the combination of financial support and incentives has been calibrated about right, and evidence of that can be found in the high numbers of students who graduate within four years.

Implications for the future
Another factor drives student success.

Each year, the caliber of incoming freshmen continues to increase, as measured by things such as SAT tests and class rank.
Each year, the support mechanisms put in place to help students succeed become more finely tuned to address the specific needs of each individual student.

Given this set of facts, it seems reasonable to assume that graduation rates at Carolina can climb still further. Still, Robert Shelton, executive vice chancellor and provost, cautioned against expecting dramatic gains.

“Our graduation rates are already high, so improvement will continue to come at a pace of 1 percent to 2 percent per year,” Shelton said. “Obviously, the more students who move through the system in four years, the more classroom spaces there are for those following.”

If rates do improve as expected, even at the modest pace that Shelton anticipates, it would result in more slots for incoming students, whether they’re freshmen or transfers from community colleges or from out of state.

Shelton said Carolina should make slow, steady gains in the size of the undergraduate population until agreed-upon targets set by the UNC Office of the President have been reached.

“To maintain the quality of students and their educational experience the key is a steady, predictable rise,” Shelton said. “Having a strong and increasing four-year graduation rate will help.”

Currently, the target number for incoming freshmen is 3,500. Shelton said he does not view 3,500 as a magic number.
“We need to do what provides the best educational experience while serving the increasing numbers of North Carolina students who can qualify for entrance to Chapel Hill,” Shelton said.

Deciding how to best serve those students will no doubt come against a backdrop of increasing financial pressures that will lead to more proposals to raise student tuition.

That is never easy.

On Aug. 8, for instance, the headline for the cover story of USA TODAY bellowed, “Public universities raise tuition, fees — and ire.” The subhead read, “As states cut their subsidies, colleges hit up students.”

Shelton, who oversaw the tuition study committee that recommended a campus-based tuition increase for the upcoming school year, has said repeatedly that student tuition should be regularly reviewed so that the full implications of any changes in tuition are understood long before they are proposed.

Given the University’s success of protecting needy students from tuition increases, and given the state’s acute money problems, trustees such as Burnett and Richard Stevens and others who served on the last tuition study group have argued that the University must continue on the path of making relatively small, incremental campus-based tuition increases year after year. These — and any other tuition increases — must be approved by the Board of Governors and state legislature.

Revenue from campus-based tuition increases remains at Carolina, so raising more of it would make more money available to improve faculty salaries and reduce teacher-pupil ratios, areas that will help the campus not only maintain but strengthen its position as a leading public university.

Said Shelton, “I agree with this approach, provided the increases are gradual and predictable.”

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Forum hears minority view

At an Aug. 7 Employee Forum meeting, two members of the University’s Personnel Flexibility Committee presented minority perspectives on the panel’s final report.

That final report, which went to Chancellor James Moeser in June for his review, stemmed from the potential of Carolina getting the chance to design its own personnel system. The report made
recommendations in these major categories: pay, benefits, working conditions, recruitment and selection, and career development.
Recommendations called for measures such as developing a performance-based pay system that also recognizes years of service as a way to improve efforts to recruit and retain employees.

Human Resources web site

But the minority report found “no compelling reason” to increase personnel flexibility at Carolina. It based that finding on a number of factors, such as learning that school-based personnel systems at peer universities include the use of collective bargaining — prohibited for North Carolina state employees.

According to the minority report, personnel systems at the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA and the University of Michigan have collective bargaining arrangements. In collective bargaining, employees formally negotiate binding labor agreements with managers.

Steve Hutton, a programmer in epidemiology, addressed that aspect of the minority report at the forum meeting, saying collective bargaining was needed to make sure negotiations lead to measures agreed to by both sides.

There is “No more spinning our wheels and getting nowhere,” Hutton said.

While the majority report calls for adherence to federal and state labor laws, Kay Hovious, director of administration in the School of Law, said she was concerned about preserving State Personnel Act (SPA) protections for SPA employees. These protections include guards against being fired without just cause and having the right to due process.

On compensation issues, Hovious said the details need to be worked out on how longevity pay would be handed out, such as whether it would be built into base salaries. And, she said, given that the state legislature is unlikely to give Carolina more money for raises than other state agencies, it’s unclear how a performance-based system would be funded.

Instead of pursuing its own personnel system, Hovious said, Carolina should focus on getting the legislature to fully fund the Comprehensive Compensation System, which lawmakers enacted in the early 1990s.

The N.C. General Assembly charged a committee with examining issues related to personnel flexibility for the 2003 legislative session. In light of that, Moeser appointed the Personnel Flexibility Committee in August 2001 at the suggestion of John Heuer, former Employee Forum chair. The panel’s charge was to examine what a Carolina-designed personnel system should look like, should the legislature grant the campus the freedom to create one.

At their meeting, Employee Forum members passed a resolution calling for both the majority and minority reports of the Personnel Flexibility Committee to be distributed to all University staff by electronic or other means as a way to start a campuswide discussion on the issues.

Both the majority and minority reports of the Personnel Flexibility Report have been posted to the web. To see them, go to www.ais.unc.edu/hr/ and click on the “Personnel Flexibility” link in the left-hand frame.

Also at the Aug. 7 forum meeting, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Shelton told members that regarding ongoing budget deliberations in Raleigh the campus is working to keep cuts as low as possible, retain non-state funds such as finance and administration dollars and have flexibility in implementing reductions.

Shelton also thanked staff members for their hard work to get the campus ready for the new academic year. “We realize it’s not done with smoke and mirrors,” he said.

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Carolina Calendar is the online place
to see and list events

Special to the Gazette
By Ashlyn Goldberg,
Office of University Communications

During the academic year, there is something happening on campus every day: a concert, a lecture on gene mapping or a workshop on
grant writing that is of interest to someone. The task of compiling that information to create one comprehensive, up-to-date source is an event in itself. And in spring 2001 that comprehensive source was realized in the form of an online campus calendar — the Carolina Calendar. From a link on the main campus page — www.unc.edu/calendar — anyone can consult this calendar for up-to-date details for a myriad of events.

e-mail link to Campus Calendar

Carolina’s Calendar provides one source for finding timely, authoritative information on campus events for students, faculty, staff and the public. To date, there are more than 240 “publishers” who are responsible for publicizing their events through the Master Calendar (a compendium of events from all over campus) and departmental calendars, of which there are close to 30. Another calendar feature is the ability for users to subscribe to e-mail lists notifying them when certain types of events are posted to the calendar so that they can instantly learn about events of interest to them. Lastly, calendar administrators can use the calendar when planning events by checking the calendar before scheduling a major event to avoid conflicts.

Carolina Calendar is one of the many outcomes of the 1997 report from the Chancellor’s Task Force on the Intellectual Climate.

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New advisory committee replaces TPAC

A new campus panel has been formed to advise the Carolina administration on how the University should plan for parking and transportation needs over the next five years.

The Advisory Committee on Transportation (ACT) replaces the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee (TPAC).
Formed by Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor for finance and administration, the new panel is charged with advising administrators on strategies for achieving convenient, safe and easy-to-use transportation to campus.

The committee, which first met July 24, also will help Carolina’s Department of Public Safety craft a five-year transportation plan, as well as advise the department on how that plan might be modified each year to meet the changing transportation needs of employees, students, visitors and UNC Health Care patients.

Eleven members serve on ACT, representing campuswide constituencies (See below for details.). It is chaired by Derek Poarch, director of public safety; and Dean Bresciani, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, is vice-chair.

“This committee has been put together to serve as a voice for the campus community,” Poarch said. “I’m excited about the membership and the energy they will bring to the process.”
The five-year plan will be drafted with the help of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., a Raleigh-based transportation consulting firm. Officials will present the plan to the University Board of Trustees for adoption in January 2003.

One key role of ACT will be to make sure that the entire campus community gets the chance to weigh in on the proposed five-year plan before it goes to the Board of Trustees. That feedback will be provided through surveys, forums and a web site, Poarch said.
ACT’s work comes against the backdrop of the campus master plan, which aims to preserve the beauty of Carolina while accommodating growth in people and facilities. And that means a dwindling supply of parking on campus.

The campus development plan — which covers the first decade of the master plan — calls for new construction totaling 5.9 million square feet and increasing the amount of green space on south campus, both of which will require removing some 20 acres of surface parking lots.

The plan also calls for replacing these lost parking spaces with eight new parking decks. But while the decks will provide enough spaces to meet the growing demand from campus visitors and UNC Health Care patients, they will not meet the growth in demand from employees and students.

By the end of the decade, according to campus data, the net increases in parking spaces will be 1,361 for visitors; 435 for employees; 31 for student family housing; and two for commuting students. During the same time, the number of campus employees is projected to increase by 44 percent, and the number of UNC Health Care employees is expected to increase by 16 percent. The number of students living on campus is expected to increase by 27 percent, but they will lose 239 spaces for their use.

In light of such numbers, campus officials have worked to give employees and students alternatives to parking on campus. This year’s transportation and parking budget includes $500,000 to help subsidize fare-free transit in Chapel Hill and Carrboro for a full year, and — through departmental contributions — the University will kick in part of the $600,000 that will go to provide transit services to new park-and-ride lots and cover inflationary increases in transit.

Another $225,000 will go toward debt service for building a second park-and-ride lot at the Friday Center off N.C. 54 in Chapel Hill and expanding the resident student storage parking lot. And through a partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill, a new park-and-ride lot also will open off Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro. The second Friday Center lot will have about 800 spaces, the Jones Ferry Road lot will have 500 spaces and the storage parking lot will have about 500 more spaces.

ACT members:
Derek K. Poarch (chair/ex-officio), director of public safety
Dean Bresciani (vice-chair/student affairs),
interim vice chancellor for student services
Sue Estroff (faculty), chair of the faculty
Tommy Griffin (staff), chair of the Employee Forum
Tammy McHale (Academic Affairs), senior
associate dean for finance and planning
Willie Scroggs (athletics), associate athletic director
Todd Peterson (UNC Hospitals), executive vice president and COO
Jennifer Daum (student government), student body president
Colin Christian (Graduate and Professional Student Federation)
Gene Bober (Health Affairs), planner in the School of Medicine
John Tallmadge (Triangle Transit Authority), transportation planner

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Public service center to hold open house

The Carolina Center for Public Service will hold an open house on Friday, Aug. 23, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Officially, the open house is an opportunity for people to meet the staff, learn more about some of the center’s exciting new programs and enjoy light refreshments.

Such activities are expected at any open house, but Lynn Blanchard, who took over as director of the center earlier this year, said she has additional hopes for this event.

Blanchard wants the open house to be an opportunity for faculty, staff and students, as well as community members, to meet and mingle and share their own ideas for public service with each other. Better still, these conversations may lead to new forms of collaboration between faculty, staff, students and the community.

Ron Strauss, the chair of the center’s Advisory Board, said that’s really what the center is all about. “The Carolina Center for Public Service represents UNC’s commitment to creating strong linkages between communities and the students, staff and faculty of the University,” Strauss said. “It works to build enduring relationships that benefit communities while also allowing students, staff and faculty to appreciate the excitement of being engaged in service.”

Blanchard is eager to explain the center’s mission to people who may not fully understand it and to share its past success stories. In addition, she hopes faculty, staff and students will drop by the open house to share their own experiences of public service at Carolina.

“We thought an appropriate kickoff for a new academic year would be an informal gathering to let folks know about the Carolina Center for Public Service and talk about how we can work together to promote engagement within the University and throughout the community,” Blanchard said.

The center is located in Suite 201 on the second floor of the Bank of America Center at 137 East Franklin Street. For more information, call 843-7568 or e-mail cps@unc.edu

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Trustees receive construction status report

It’s been nearly two years since voters approved $3.1 billion worth of construction money for the state’s university and community college systems, with some $500 million of that amount earmarked for Carolina.

Drive down almost any road on campus, walk down any path or look out almost any window and one is bound to encounter evidence of where some of that money has gone.

On July 25, the University Board of Trustees received a six-month status report that served as a snapshot of the total picture.
Since Jan. 13, projects with a total value of $79.5 million have been completed. The biggest of these projects include new resident halls ($46.5 million) for 960 students and the long-awaited renovations for R.B. House Undergraduate Library ($9.9 million).

Another 26 projects totaling $303.1 million are now under construction, including the $33.6 million bioinformatics building scheduled for completion in December and the $9 million Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center that broke ground in June and is scheduled for completion in December 2003.

Meanwhile, another 55 projects totaling $659.3 million are under design. They include the first phase of the $87.14 million Science Complex that will eventually replace Venable Hall.

The first phase of the complex encompasses the construction of two buildings. A 106,000 square foot building that will house the marine sciences and physics and astronomy departments will be built south of Phillips Hall and will be connected to Phillips by an enclosed bridge. The building will feature classrooms, research laboratories and a rooftop astronomy observatory deck.

A new 143,000 square foot building will be built between Wilson Library and Kenan Labs that will house research laboratories for the chemistry department. A new office wing will connect this building to Kenan Labs.

The two buildings have been sited to maintain the existing pedestrian network and to create a new quadrangle south of the Phillips Hall addition.

At the July 25 meeting, trustees approved a design for these state-of-the-art research laboratory buildings that will feature a Georgian “language” that complements the architectural style found along Polk Place. The designer, William Wilson Associates, was hired in March 2001.

In other action, the trustees:

* Approved a site for a 60,000 square foot addition to the Kenan Flagler Business School complex. The site for the building will be east and southeast of the Kenan Center, a location called for in the new campus master plan in order to maintain the visibility of Kenan Center from the existing drive.

* Approved the site for new student housing to replace the 40-year-old Odum Village. The project will add at least 300 two-bedroom apartments to be built along Mason Farm Road and the Baity Hill property. The units will be positioned to accommodate a future transit corridor and roadway as set out in the campus master plan.

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ATN to offer online registration
beginning Aug. 20

As the Gazette went to press, the Academic Technology and Networks (ATN) roster of computer training classes for September was not complete, but the schedule now should be available online at www.unc.edu/atn/training

Beginning Aug. 20, online registration for ATN Training Center courses will be possible via the help.unc.edu web site.

Select “Training” under the “Browse by Topic” section, and you will be able to browse through the available courses and, using your Onyen (the Only Name You’ll Ever Need) and password, sign up for the courses that you wish to attend.

To register by telephone, call 962-1160. For computer-based training (CBT) courses, see help.unc.edu/cbt/

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University Gazette