Should UNC Tuition Go Up?

North Carolina has a $3 billion budget hole this coming fiscal year. The new Republican leadership has pledged to balance the budget without raising taxes. As part of the plan, the University of North Carolina will be expected to cut 5 to 10 percent from its budget—up to $290 million.

Another option for UNC, however, is to raise tuition and student fees. A UNC Board of Governors committee has proposed an average increase in tuition of 6.8 percent, which would come on top of a large tuition increase in 2010 (over 20 percent).

Since 1990, tuition and fees for in-state students have increased by 289 percent. For out-of state students, the amount has gone up 173 percent. During the same period, per-capita income in North Carolina rose from $17,194 to $34,719, or 102 percent. See the graphs below (all of which are in nominal dollars).

As the second graph shows, in-state tuition has nearly doubled as a percentage of per-capita income, rising from about 6 percent in 1990 to more than 12 percent in 2009.

Perhaps the tuition and fees were too low to begin with—even now in-state students bear only a small portion of the total cost of their UNC education. On the other hand, that price may already be too high, given the swelling college bubble and the unnecessary and wasteful spending on college campuses.

What do you think?