uncchapelhill University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill wants a student fee earmarked for building maintenance

The Facilities Maintenance Debt Service Fee would yield $1.8 million annually.

Officials at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill want to impose a fee on students to help pay for a growing backlog of building maintenance needs on campus.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the university's Board of Trustees has approved a proposal to charge each student $65.39 starting next year to help tackle repairs in classrooms, labs and other buildings on campus. The Facilities Maintenance Debt Service Fee would yield nearly $1.8 million annually to finance $23 million in debt.

The university has proposed reducing some other student fees in order to create the new one. The $65.39 amount would keep required student fee increases within a 3 percent limit mandated by the legislature.

The proposal next goes to the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors, which will consider tuition and fee changes early next year.

This year, tuition and fees at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are $8,986 annually for new in-state students and $35,169 for new out-of-state students. That does not include room, board, books and other expenses. The total cost of attendance is estimated at $23,700 for North Carolina residents and $50,600 for out-of-state students.

UNC-Chapel Hill officials say regular repair funding allocated by the legislature isn’t making a dent in the growing cost of fixing campus buildings.

The backlog of maintenance on the Chapel Hill campus has reached $850 million, the university has estimated. Three years ago, a similar presentation said the backlog was $656 million.

“You get to a point when old buildings are getting pretty old, so we’re trying to deal with that,” Chancellor Carol Folt says. “We can’t rely fully on the state. There are a lot of costs;sd they have a lot of old buildings themselves. So I think this is something you’re going to see the whole state talking about—how are we going to start upgrading our infrastructure?”

Student Body President Savannah Putnam says she thinks the way the fee came up was “problematic.” As someone who studies in neglected buildings, she says she sees the need for an infusion of money, but she’d like to see the board also pursue other avenues for funding.

For years, new construction at the state’s universities has been given priority over rehabilitation of older facilities. Voters have approved two large bond issues for the UNC system and community colleges, largely focused on new buildings: $3.1 billion in 2000 and $2 billion in 2016, of which about two-thirds was targeted to state campuses.

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