Study Finds Tuition Low, Higher-Education Appropriations High in N.C.

According to the most recent data, taxpayers in North Carolina pay the fourth-highest per-pupil amount in the nation to subsidize public-college students in their state. Also, N.C. students attending the state’s community colleges or public universities pay the second-lowest amounts in tuition and fees in the nation in either category of institution.

Those findings are according to an October Inquiry paper (No. 14, “Providing Access: Who Pays What for Higher Education in N.C.”) by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. While announcing those results, the Inquiry paper did note the fact that the most recent data are from 1999-2000, and that tuition has increased in both those years as the state has buckled down under a budget crisis. So North Carolina likely has fallen somewhat in those comparisons over the last two years.

Nevertheless, the paper suggests that the state’s standings in those categories as late as the 1999-2000 academic year should alleviate concerns over the long-term impact of the state’s fiscal crisis on the state’s public universities and community colleges.

According to the report:

• The average cost in tuition and fees for an in-state student attending a public, two-year institution in North Carolina in 1999-2000 was $778, less than half the national average of $1,647 and the second-lowest in the nation.

• The average cost in tuition and fees for an in-state student attending a public, four-year institution in North Carolina in 1999-2000 was $2,054, only about 60 percent of the national average of $3,376 and also the second-lowest in the nation.

• The average amount appropriated per full-time-equivalent student enrolled in public institutions of higher education in North Carolina was $7,066, which was 40 percent higher than the national average of $5,061 and the fourth-highest amount in the nation.

“A fiscal crisis is forcing North Carolina to raise college tuition and scale back university budgets,” the report states. “The education community worries that N.C. students are losing ‘access’ to higher education. A look at the most recent data suggest that N.C.’s high standing among the 50 states in those measures means it can weather the current fiscal problems and still provide better ‘access’ than most other states.”

The Pope Center Inquiry paper arrives amid news from the College Board ( that public-college tuition experienced its highest one-year jump in 10 years.

The College Board’s “Trends in College Pricing 2002” reports that the average tuition at private four-year colleges increased $1,001 (5.8 percent) to $18,273; at public four-year colleges, $356 (9.6 percent) to $4,081; at private two-year colleges, $690 (7.5 percent) to $9,890; and at public two-year colleges, $127 (5.8 percent) to $1,735.

The report shows that other states are experiencing their own fiscal problems. As College Board President Gaston Caperton said in the report, “As tax revenues decline, public colleges have searched for other sources of funding and for many, that has led to tuition increases. But despite this year’s increases, public colleges and universities are still a remarkable value.”