October 3, 2007 edition

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The University Board of Trustees on Sept. 26 unanimously approved the plan for Carolina North to develop 250 acres of the nearly 1,000-acre site during the next half-century.

The trustees’ action clears the way for the plan to be reviewed and approved by the Chapel Hill Town Council.

The plan anticipates that 2.5 million square feet of building space will be completed over the first 15 years along the eastern boundary of the property bordering Martin Luther King Boulevard. The first of those projects will be a new 85,000-square-foot Innovation Center for which the University has already requested a special-use permit to begin construction.

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When visiting San Francisco, most tourists flock to see the Golden Gate Bridge, the internationally recognized symbol of the city, considered the engineering marvel of its age when the bridge opened in 1937.

Seventy years later, the San Francisco marvel that has caught the eye of Carolina’s Mark Crowell lies on the edge of the city in Mission Bay. Crowell is associate vice chancellor for economic development and technology transfer.

Once an industrial wasteland, Mission Bay is now home to a satellite campus for the University of California at San Francisco and, next to it, the burgeoning life science complex that is being developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities of Pasadena, Calif.

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A philosopher who has interests in metaphysics and the mathematics of logic, a geneticist who is working to develop cancer therapies, a computer scientist who specializes in bioinformatics and data mining, and a historian who studies the African-American experience in the American South have received the 2007 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty.

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Seven Carolina employees were recognized for their outstanding contributions Sept. 24 at a luncheon at the Carolina Inn. Five people received the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence and two received the Excellence in Management Awards.

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Campus-based tuition over the past decade has played a pivotal role in generating revenue to bolster faculty pay to keep Carolina competitive.

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Trustees to consider campus-based tuition increases

Campus-based tuition over the past decade has played a pivotal role in generating revenue to bolster faculty pay to keep Carolina competitive.

From the 2004-05 school year through the end of the current 2007-08 school year, campus-based tuition will have generated nearly $15 million for faculty salaries, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bernadette Gray-Little told University trustees last month.

With these tuition revenues, combined with stronger support from the N.C. General Assembly over the past two years, faculty salaries have reached or exceeded the 50th percentile of the University’s peers in most schools. Still, the University remains far away from reaching the UNC Board of Governors’ goal of raising it to the 80th percentile.

Reaching that 80th percentile goal this year for all tenure and tenure-track faculty would require another $11 million in recurring funds next year, Gray-Little said last month as she reviewed with trustees some of the key issues to consider as the University begins the process of studying campus-based tuition and fee increases for the 2008-09 school year.

Gray-Little explored various tuition models with trustees first before the board’s Audit and Finance Committee on Sept. 26 and then before the full board the next day. And she reminded trustees that they would have to be ready to vote on a tuition recommendation to forward to the UNC Board of Governors at their next regular meeting in November.

That is not the only thing that will be different in the tuition process this year, thanks to changes that Gray-Little proposed earlier this year.

In previous years, that process of reviewing tuition increases started with the Tuition and Fee Advisory Task Force, which is always chaired by the provost and student body president, holding a series of meetings over several months to develop recommendations for Chancellor James Moeser to consider.

Moeser, in turn, used the task force’s report to develop his recommendation to present to trustees.

Under the new process advocated by Gray-Little, she would initiate a discussion with University trustees in September to seek their guidance and input in advance of the tuition task force’s first meeting, which was set to be held Oct. 1 as the Gazette went to press. Two subsequent meetings are set for Oct. 22 and Nov. 5 for the task force to complete its work.

Meanwhile, a Student Fees Advisory Subcommittee had been meeting since Aug. 27 to develop recommendations for fee increases that the tuition task force will weigh in its deliberations. The fees subcommittee held four meetings and completed its work on Sept. 19.

Gray-Little said that the tuition task force will begin its work not knowing for sure how much latitude it will have for raising in-state undergraduate campus-based tuition.

That’s because of guidelines that the Board of Governors Tuition Policy Task Force developed last October that limited member institutions from increasing tuition and fees no more than 6.5 percent for the 2007-08 school year.

For increases about to be considered for the 2008-09 school year, that formula may get more complicated, Gray-Little said. That’s because the board guidelines linked the size of tuition increases allowed in subsequent years to the level of operating appropriations from the General Assembly that were above 6 percent.

For example, if the General Assembly appropriated a 7 percent increase in University appropriations one year, it would be 1 percent over the 6 percent threshold in the formula. As a result, the 6.5 percent increase on tuition and fees might be reduced by a corresponding 1 percent, down to 5.5 percent.

Not knowing exactly how the percentage of increase in state appropriations will be calculated further complicates this formula, Gray-Little said.

 Board of Governors officials said last week that percentage increases in state appropriations varied from institution to institution last year and that the exact numbers have not yet been calculated.

Moeser, in his comments to trustees, said he did not think this was the year to seek large increases in light of the generous state support that made the current fiscal year one of the best in years for state support.

The tuition task force, which always includes two trustees as members, will also explore how much out-of-state tuition can be raised without reducing access and quality in the pool of highly-qualified students from outside North Carlina who apply here.

During the board’s Audit and Finance Committee, Gray-Little presented data to show that the University could eke out additional tuition revenues, no matter what the size of the increase, by applying campus-based increases to all students across the campus. Currently, professional students subject to school-based tuition increases are exempt from the campus-based tuition increase all other students pay.

For the four academic years since 2004-05, campus-based tuition increases at Carolina have generated a total of $35.45 million, Gray-Little reported. Of that amount, $13.69 million was reserved for need-based student aid based on a fixed policy of reserving at least 35 percent of total revenues for that purpose.

Of the remaining revenues, $14.9 million since 2004 have been earmarked for strategic pay raises for faculty, $2.56 million for fringe benefits, $3.13 million for teacher assistant salaries and $1.15 million for campus-funded graduate tuition remission and academic support.

Gray-Little showed a chart showing how excluding select students from campus-based tuition increases had resulted in the cumulative loss of $7 million over that same period — money that could have been used to raise faculty pay still further and close that $11 million gap in funding needed to reach the 80th percentile in pay.

Paul Fulton, chair of the audit and finance committee, urged the board to consider reviewing the policy in light of the financial implications that Gray-Little’s report revealed.

Gray-Little, in a later interview, pointed out that uniformly applying campus-based tuition increases had been the original policy used when campus-based increases were first allowed nearly a decade ago. “I certainly hope we return to that practice,” she said.

A year ago, the tuition task force backed a recommendation to do just that, but trustees rejected it.

Asked about Fulton’s interest in reviewing that policy, Gray-Little said she viewed it as critically important to the tuition process as it unfolds. “I am very pleased it is going to be reviewed and we are talking about it in a way that the (financial) implications are fully understood,” Gray-Little said.

Gray-Little also presented to the full board several different models to consider that differ from the trustees’ policy. For example, the board has a guiding policy of seeking to raise tuition for nonresidents up to the 75th percentile of academic peers. Under an alternate model Gray-Little presented for consideration, the target would be reduced to the 50th percentile.

Even with the sizeable increases in out-of-state tuition, the University remains far below the 75th percentile target because other universities have raised out-of-state tuition as aggressively or more than UNC has.

One policy that fits with the Board of Governors’ caps makes sure that tuition for in-state students does not exceed the 25th percentile of academic peers.

 

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