by Paige Terryberry
Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy, John Locke Foundation
Focus on costs beyond tuition
Tuition and fees in the UNC System make up only one-third of the total cost of attending a UNC university, according to today’s UNC Board of Governor’s Committee on Budget and Finance meeting. On-campus living and dining increased significantly more than tuition in recent years. While the cost of attendance has traditionally received less attention than the cost of tuition, the UNC Board of Governors will move to focus more on overall cost with significant budgetary and procedural changes.
Federal grants are dependent on the full cost of attendance and universities differ in their methods of calculating this cost (only some include health insurance, for example). Jennifer Haygood, UNC’s Chief Financial officer, referenced this as one rationale for the shift in focus. If universities have a low cost of attendance, students may have less access to financial aid.
The board stated it will maintain a greater focus on the overall cost of attendance in the future, and implement greater oversight of housing and dining rates.
Focus on funding beyond General Fund
UNC institutions are funded by both the General Fund, subject to state rules, as well as institutional trust funds (comprised of student fees, donor funds, etc.). The latter has grown to roughly half of all revenue sources. Haygood unveiled a new proposed requirement for all UNC institutions to develop an All-Funds budget beginning in 2023 and annually thereafter. According to the presentation, this would better align with strategic priorities, promote stewardship and financial sustainability, improve transparency, and strengthen the fiduciary responsibility of the Boards of Trustees.
Haygood reviewed specific expectations for each UNC institution including a budget template, checklist, and instructions for a narrative to detail productivity. This new requirement would be delegated to the 17 UNC institutions. The institutions would then present their budgets to the Board of Governors.
Board member Art Pope applauded the great progress and confirmed the need for an All-Funds budget. He expressed concern regarding the lack of process for the Board of Governors stating that the board must fulfill their statutory duty to guide these budgets. The new plan did not appear to allow sufficient time for feedback and recommendations to the various UNC institutions.