Tuition Rates on the Rise

By Ashley Elder – aelder@unca.edu – Staff Writer | Jan. 21, 2015 |

UNC Asheville reported a 54 percent increase in tuition over the past five years.

“It’s already expensive. I feel like we already pay too much,” said Whitney Rooks, sophomore.

According to the university fact book, tuition rose by $1,277 since 2010. Meal plans rose to $3,334, an increase of 11 percent over five years.

“Increased tuition affects the ability of students to get an education, plus increases the debt load for students once they graduate,” said Rudy Beharrysingh, mathematics lecturer.

Rooks, a transfer student from Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, said she began her second semester last week.

“I’m used to going to school where Pell Grants cover everything, with some left over,” she said. “Instead of having money left over, I have to pay it back now.”

With at least four semesters to go before graduating with an atmospheric science degree, Rooks said she worries about finding a job after college so she can pay back her loans.

“It could actually skew students’ decisions in the near future,” said Shawn Smathers, 35, UNCA alumnus. “They are faced with a tough decision because economically, it may be better to not go as far or educate themselves as extensively. In some fields this affects what major they might go into.”

According to the UNCA Fact Book, fees increased by 5.5 percent between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. Total fees have increased 31 percent in the past five years.

“The main justification for fee increases is to partially offset the draconian budgetary constraints imposed on the university system by the state,” Beharrysingh said. “This is partially due to the constraints from the federal government. And, of course it is all related to the near-depression state of the country around the 2007-09 time.”

The consumer price index rose by 1.6 percent in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

The index measures consumer inflation by the change in consumer prices for a representative group of products and services. It determines annual living cost adjustments to Social Security and employee paychecks.

As a college student, Rooks said she struggles to pay all her bills. She said most students are not going to be able to come to school because they can not afford it.

Rooks currently does not have a job, and she said the cost of living and going to school full-time forced her to take out two loans.

“For financial aid it is like a vicious cycle.  Since fees are higher, grants and loans must be larger,” Beharrysingh said. “This ultimately costs the federal government and taxpayers, since they bear the brunt of grants and unpaid loans.”

After one semester, Rooks said she already has $10,000 in loan debt.

“That’s a lot of money I am going to have to pay back,” Rooks said.

According to data from the UNCA website, undergraduate tuition for in-state students costs $3,666 per semester for the 2013-14 school year. The cost of attending school in Asheville ranks between UNC Wilmington at $6,423 per semester and Fayetteville State University at $2,742 per semester.

Beharrysingh said the cost of a public education is still cheap compared to what you receive, especially at UNCA, which is a hub of diverse, rich education.

 

“The state may continue to cut budgets to the university system while giving tax breaks to the wealthy, but they cannot cut the spirit of learning,” he said. “Teachers and staff, at least at UNCA, will always strive to give the best value for money to the students.”

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