|UNC background on affordability, accessibility, productivity related to with President Obama’s visit|
|Monday, April 23, 2012|
President Barack Obama will speak about student loan interest rates during an appearance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday, April 24. (http://www.unc.edu/spotlight/Obama-visit). As background for reporters covering that event, following is context about the current situation at UNC-Chapel Hill:
UNC-Chapel Hill provides students with a high-quality education at an affordable price. UNC’s low tuition and a robust financial aid program provide access to a Carolina education for deserving students regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Attracting and retaining the best faculty are key to Carolina’s academic experience because that also helps attract top students. Eighty percent of undergraduates earn their degrees in four years; 90 percent graduate in six years.
Managing Cuts and Constraining Costs
The N.C. General Assembly and the taxpayers have generously supported the University for 218 years. Like other public universities, UNC has absorbed deep budget cuts the last few years because state lawmakers have faced difficult budget choices. A ground-breaking efficiency study guided those cuts at UNC-Chapel Hill and helped to reduce administrative costs.
The University took a state budget cut of $100 million, 18 percent, this year. Since 2008, Carolina has absorbed more than $231 million in total state cuts.
Before the economic downturn, the University hired Bain & Company to study its operations and make them more efficient. Carolina was the first major university to undertake such an initiative, and others have followed that lead. The goal is to streamline operations and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, thereby reallocating resources to support the academic mission. This initiative has served as a roadmap to help wisely implement state budget cuts. To date, the University has identified and implemented $50 million in permanent administrative savings.
Affordability and Accessibility
Maintaining the quality of the academic experience that the University offers students has been the top priority in coping with budget cuts. Recent tuition increases have been consistent with those priorities. Carolina’s tuition remains among the very lowest for comparable major public research universities nationwide.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recently ranked Carolina first among the 100 public universities and colleges offering high-quality academics at an affordable price (http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/5001/68/). It was the 11th consecutive #1 Kiplinger ranking for Carolina since 1998. Carolina was also first on the 2012 “Best Value Colleges” list from The Princeton Review and USA Today (http://www.unc.edu/campus-updates/2012_Princeton_Review). Carolina is one of two top public universities that meet 100 percent of the demonstrated need of all undergraduates who apply for aid on time.
The Carolina Covenant (http://www.unc.edu/carolinacovenant/ is a national model for providing a debt-free education to qualified low-income students. More than 90 universities nationwide have followed Carolina’s lead since 2003. Covenant Scholars are students whose family income is at or lower than 200 percent of the federal poverty rate. The program is made possible by a combination of federal Pell grants and work study funding, state need-based aid funding and University support.
Of Carolina’s 2011 graduates, 35 percent borrowed to finance their education. This percentage was only slightly higher than the 34 percent who borrowed in the graduating class of 2007. The average cumulative debt was $15,472 (the national average is $25,000). Measured in constant dollars – adjusted for inflation – the average cumulative debt for 2011 graduates was $2,525 less than the average cumulative debt for those who graduated over a decade ago.
Other Creative Approaches to Enhancing Access
The Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP) encourages community college students to transfer to and graduate from Carolina. Talented low- and middle-income high school students are guaranteed eventual admission to Carolina if they enroll at one of seven community colleges and complete the program successfully. C-STEP (http://admissions.unc.edu/CSTEP/) serves nearly 180 students; nearly 70 will enroll as new juniors at Carolina next fall.
The National College Advising Corps, based at UNC-Chapel Hill, works to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college, underrepresented students who enter and complete higher education. Through a nationwide consortium of colleges and universities, recent graduates of partner campuses are hired, trained and placed as full-time college advisers in underserved high schools in urban and rural areas. Advisers help students navigate the complex web of college admissions, secure financial aid and work to raise college going rates within those schools. The Advising Corps (http://carolinacollegeadvisingcorps.unc.edu/about-us/national-college-advising-corps/) currently serves 57 partner high schools in North Carolina and more than 350 nationwide.
Chancellor Thorp’s National Leadership on College Costs and Access
Chancellor Holden Thorp (www.unc.edu/chan/) was among the dozen higher education officials invited to the White House in December for a roundtable discussion with President Obama. The group shared ways they have worked to promote innovation, reduce costs and produce more graduates during a time of reduced funding for higher education at the state level. Thorp serves on the national Commission on Higher Education Attainment, which was created by the six higher education associations to chart a course for greatly improving college retention and attainment and, in turn, restore the nation’s higher education preeminence.
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Facts About Carolina: http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/3421/145/