Western Carolina University
A view of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee from WCU's webcam. Photo courtesy of WCU via uccam.wcu.edu.

CULLOWHEE — The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees has endorsed a schedule of tuition and fees for the 2016-17 academic year that includes a 3 percent increase in tuition for students from North Carolina previously approved by the board last December.

The proposal, unanimously approved by the board at its regular quarterly meeting Friday, Dec. 4, would mean a $114 annual increase in tuition for in-state undergraduate students.

During last December’s board meeting, the trustees approved a 3 percent increase in tuition for in-state students for 2015-16 and a subsequent increase of 3 percent for 2016-17, meeting instructions from the University of North Carolina Board Of Governors that all UNC campuses submit tuition and fee proposals covering those two academic years.

Funds generated by the tuition increase would be used to add additional classes in the high-demand, high-growth areas of chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs; address salary issues as part of the university’s efforts to retain faculty and staff; and provide support for student services and programming.

Even with the increase in costs for the coming year, WCU will remain among the least-expensive institutions of higher education in the state.

In addition to changes in tuition, the board approved only one modification to mandatory student fees — a $10 increase in the book rental fee, from $280 per academic year to $290, to help meet the rising costs of textbooks and educational materials. All other mandatory student fees remain unchanged for 2016-17.

Phil Drake, chair of the trustees’ finance and audit committee, presented the schedule of tuition and fees to the full board for approval following an afternoon of open discussion and committee meetings Thursday, Dec. 3.

The board approved increases in residence hall room rates ranging from 2.5 percent to 14.50 percent to meet rising utility costs, prepare for adding housing capacity and continue renovations of existing facilities.

In addition, the trustees set rates for rooms in a mixed-used facility currently under construction. A blend of residential, commercial and dining space, the new facility replaces structures damaged by fire in November 2013 and will be named Noble Hall in honor of the Noble Nine, the group of nine trustees from the late 1800s who were instrumental in the development of the school that evolved into WCU. The trustees approved naming of the hall during their November planning retreat.

The board also approved increases of about 4 percent in the cost of student meal plans to help meet the rising costs of food and food-service personnel, and approved postponement for one year of previously approved increases in campus parking fees.

The action by the trustees comes after a series of meetings by a campus tuition and fee committee, including three open campus discussions, several information sessions sponsored by the Student Government Association, and an online survey that received 757 responses.

With the proposed changes approved by the board, WCU’s average total cost of attendance in 2016-17, including standard residence hall accommodations and the most-popular meal plan, would be $15,391 per year (fall and spring semester) for a typical N.C. undergraduate student, a 5.7 percent increase over current year costs.

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