In N.C., Debate Over an Aid Freeze—and What It Means to Be Affordable

In N.C., Debate Over an Aid Freeze—and What It Means to Be Affordable 1

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The U. of North Carolina system is considering capping the amount of tuition revenue that campuses spend on need-based financial aid at 15 percent. Six of the campuses, including the flagship at Chapel Hill (above), already exceed that benchmark. The rationale behind the proposal is that universities are levying tuition increases to pay for need-based aid, and in doing so are driving up the debt burden of students across the system.

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The U. of North Carolina system is considering capping the amount of tuition revenue that campuses spend on need-based financial aid at 15 percent. Six of the campuses, including the flagship at Chapel Hill (above), already exceed that benchmark. The rationale behind the proposal is that universities are levying tuition increases to pay for need-based aid, and in doing so are driving up the debt burden of students across the system.

Affordability is the aim of countless proposed higher-education policies. The question is, affordability for whom?

In North Carolina, that’s what the university system’s Board of Governors is trying to sort out. The board is considering a policy that would cap the amount of tuition revenue the state’s public universities could put toward need-based financial aid. Under the plan, each of the system’s 16 campuses would be allowed to apply just 15 percent of its