Will Rierson writes for the Martin Center about the increasing burden of mandatory students fees at UNC schools.

North Carolina public universities are more than just institutions of higher learning. They are each small cities of young adults with Olympic-level athletic franchises, massive dining and fitness clubs, and special interest hobby communities supported by extensive human and physical infrastructure.

To fund the many perks and benefits of university life, schools charge extra fees beyond tuition and room and board. In the University of North Carolina system, students at each of the 16 member institutions pay, on average, more than $2,500 annually in mandatory fees.

Mandatory student fees are slowly going up at North Carolina public universities, making attendance more expensive and raising questions about the true need and value of the amenities they help provide. Those fees have risen by 16.9 percent since the 2015-2016 academic year, on average, and schools are planning another markup set to take effect this fall. …

… Any fee increase must be accompanied by expenditure plans and background information justifying their need. System rules limit mandatory student fees from growing by more than 3 percent overall each year, and the addition of new fees is currently prohibited. Mandatory student fees are the same for all students, regardless of whether they’re North Carolina residents, an undergrad or grad student, or if they live on-campus or off.

The Board of Governors discussed mandatory student fee increases for the 2020-2021 academic year during its January meeting and will vote on the issue in March. If the proposed increases are approved, fees will rise by an average of 2.4 percent across the system, from $2,611 to $2,674, but these increases are very different from school to school.