Premium Tuition Proposal Procedure

This standard operating procedure provides information on the requirements, process and timeline for requesting new or increased premium tuition for graduate and professional programs. It also addresses requirements for internal accounting of approved premium tuitions.

Effective February 1, 2016 (Last updated July 2022)

Essential Information on Premium Tuition

  1. Under G.S. 116-11(7), the UNC Board of Governors “shall set tuition and required fees at the institutions, not inconsistent with the actions of the General Assembly.”
  2. The UNC system policy reference on premium tuition is UNC 1000.1.1 Policy on Tuition Rates, Section III.B, “Graduate and Professional Tuition Rates.”  
  3. Only graduate and professional degree programs can seek and charge a premium tuition. 
  4. Premium tuition is unique to each degree program; in other words, premium tuition receipts may not be transferred or comingled between degree programs.
  5. Because degree programs evolve over time, and their needs change, the application of premium tuition funds over time can deviate from the original premium tuition request.
  6. All premium tuition received by a degree program must be utilized for the benefit of the students paying the tuition. In other words, the funds cannot be applied to expenses from prior student cohorts or expenses planned for future students.
  7. Standard tuition plus appropriation (known as “total requirement”) is intended to cover the cost of the program. Therefore, premium tuition must be used to enhance the instructional experience of the students paying the premium tuition by providing experiences in addition to the “normal” expectations of instruction. 
  8. Premium tuition cannot be charged to non-degree seeking students.
  9. Premium tuition cannot be used for the following expenses:
    1. Food and beverage
    2. Event sponsorships for individuals or student teams
    3. “Gifts” to industry professionals and speakers.
    4. Employee travel unrelated to student activities and programs
  10. Premium tuition may be used for other expenses not otherwise prohibited in #3-9 above, including the following examples:
    1. Graduate Student Fellowship Awards (non-service)
    2. Branded shirts for students representing the university in competitions
    3. Startup kits for admitted students, limited to nominal items directly supporting the student’s academic work (e.g. laptop bag)
    4. Graduation expenses not charged to state funds, excluding food, drinks, entertainment or gifts
    5. Student travel expenses for an academic requirement or official state business
    6. Student newsletter
    7. Program marketing and advertising, but only if approved in the original proposal to the UNC Board of Governors
  11. Colleges and departments are responsible for understanding the history of premium tuition requests and components of the premium tuition budget for programs they oversee. The University Budget Office can provide information on past premium tuition requests and train new Business Office staff regarding premium tuition.

Oversight of the Procedure for Requesting Premium Tuition

The Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, through the Senior Vice Provost for Instructional Programs, will provide oversight for proposal review. The review will be conducted in collaboration with the Dean of the Graduate School (or designee) and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget and Resource Management (or designee). 

Together, they will be responsible for:

  • Providing oversight of the premium tuition proposal and review process,
  • Evaluating proposal abstracts and determining whether or not they should continue to the full proposal stage,
  • Evaluating full proposals and offering advice for improvement as appropriate, and
  • Determining which proposals should be submitted to the Provost for approval and which should be discontinued.

Procedure for Requesting Premium Tuition

  1. Program faculty and Assistant Dean(s) for Finance prepare and submit a proposal abstract per instructions provided by the Provost Office. The abstract, not to exceed one page, must be endorsed by the appropriate department head(s) and dean(s) and answer the following questions:
    • What need is driving the request for premium tuition?
    • How would the premium tuition be used to make substantial improvements to the program? Be specific.
    • What is the present return on investment attained by students in the program and/or the projected return on investment supplied by the premium tuition?
    • How does tuition for similar programs at peer universities compare to our current tuition and to our proposed tuition with the premium in place? 
  2. The Senior Vice Provost for Instructional Programs, Dean of the Graduate School (or designee), and Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget and Resource Management (or designee)] will review the abstract, and potentially meet with the faculty involved, in order to recommend to the Provost that it be either encouraged to advance to proposal stage or declined.
  3. The Provost accepts or rejects the recommendation.
  4. For an abstract encouraged to advance to the proposal stage, program faculty and Assistant Dean(s) for Finance prepare and submit a full proposal. The proposal must include endorsement from the appropriate department head(s) and dean(s) and address each section in A Guide to Writing a Proposal for Premium Tuition (see below).
  5. The Senior Vice Provost for Instructional Programs, Dean of the Graduate School (or designee), and Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget and Resource Management (or designee) review the proposal and recommend that the Provost approve or decline it.
  6. The Provost accepts or rejects the recommendation. 
  7. The Provost submits the approved proposal to the Tuition Review Advisory Committee (TRAC). The TRAC approves or rejects the proposal.
  8. TRAC submits the approved proposal to the Chancellor. The Chancellor approves or rejects the proposal.
  9. The Chancellor submits the approved proposal to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees approves or rejects the proposal.
  10. The University Budget Office submits the approved proposal, with all other tuition and fee requests, to the UNC System Office for review and approval by the Board of Governors.

Timeline for Premium Tuition Proposal Review and Approval

Each spring, the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration will announce to the Council of Deans and Assistant Deans for Finance, respectively, the opportunity to submit proposal abstracts for new or increased premium tuition. The announcement will include instructions and timelines for 

  • proposal abstract submission,
  • proposal abstract review and notification,
  • full proposal submission, and
  • full proposal review and notification.

Proposals selected to move forward in the university review process adhere to the following timeline.

Approx. Dates
Late AugustProvost sends approved proposals to TRAC for review.
SeptemberUNC SO sends instructions for annual tuition and fee cycle to campuses.
OctoberTRAC completes review and recommends proposals to the Chancellor for review.
Late OctoberChancellor reviews proposals and sends recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
NovemberBoard of Trustees reviews and approves proposals.
DecemberUniversity Budget Office submits approved proposals to the UNC SO for review.
Feb./MarchUNC SO presents proposals to Board of Governors for approval.
AugustPremium tuition for programs is implemented, if approved.

Important timeline notes for planned degree programs (i.e. not established). 

  • For new degree programs being planned, the need for and dependence upon premium tuition is considered during preparation of the Request for Preliminary Authorization.
  • A UNC Board of Governors vote to approve establishment of a new degree program with proposed premium tuition in its budget model does not also serve to approve the proposed premium tuition; the program’s premium tuition proposal has a separate review and approval process.
  • Premium tuition can only be requested for an established degree program and only during the annual tuition and fee cycle.

A Guide to Writing a Proposal for Premium Tuition

According to UNC policy, premium tuition proposals submitted by campuses to the UNC Board of Governors should 

  1. supply evidence that students of the affected programs have been consulted, 
  2. show that the increased tuition will be used to maintain or enhance the excellence of the programs while assuring access to them, and 
  3. to the extent possible, provide full tuition remission to graduate assistants in order to increase the competitiveness of the program in recruiting.

The policy lists the items that campuses will consider in creating and approving proposals. Faculty writing a proposal should address each item after an introduction. The guidelines below describe how to write a proposal for premium tuition, including suggestions for responding to items A-H. You will also create a budget for your proposal using Form A.


  • Background for the program necessary for placing the premium tuition proposal in context
  • A brief description of what has created the need for premium tuition
  • A brief description of what the program will use the premium tuition for
  • A brief description of the affected students consulted for this proposal (e.g. the program’s Graduate Student Association leadership)

A.  The anticipated impact of the proposed tuition premium on program quality

Ideal effect: Increased tuition would lead to substantial improvements in the quality of the program for students.

Programs may:

  • demonstrate that there are aspects of the program that need to be improved to benefit students and that increased funding could address those issues leading to significant advantages for students, or
  • demonstrate that the program is strong (e.g., by demonstrating that demand is strong and starting salaries are high) and provides substantial benefits to students but cannot be sustained at current funding levels; then describe what additional benefits would accrue to students, or
  • benchmark the program against competing programs and show what the program needs in order to be competitive with the other programs.

B.  The projected impact of increased tuition on access for North Carolina residents

Ideal effect: An increase in tuition would not significantly reduce access to residents or would expand access.

Programs may:

  • compare time to recover the cost of tuition after employment before and after tuition increase, showing that it is reasonable.
  • compare in-state tuition to similar institutions before and after tuition increase.
  • show that part of the tuition increase will be set aside for financial aid to students with financial need, referring to Section C for details.

C.  The availability of student financial aid for students with economic need and of tuition remission

Ideal effect: Premium tuition would increase the availability of financial aid to students who need it.

 We interpret this to refer to a subset of students identified either by merit or financial need.

Programs may:

  • explain the plan to provide for financial aid and describe details of the plan.
  • compare the difference in program-based financial aid before and after the increased tuition, demonstrating that there is more after.
  • describe other sources of financial support in the department that could go to low-income students in the program, such as teaching and research assistantships and fellowships.
  • describe the current model of tuition remission and any changes that would occur after increased tuition (note: premium tuition is not covered by the Graduate Student Support Plan, which means that it is not paid through tuition remission; premium tuition must be paid by student or department).

D.   The extent to which current and prospective students can afford increases in tuition

Ideal effect: Current and prospective students would be able to afford the rise in tuition.

Programs may:

  • present the starting salaries of recent graduates and show that they favorably compare with those of other professions.
  • compare time to recover the cost of tuition after employment before and after tuition increase, showing that it is reasonable.
  • show that return on investment is high.
  • describe indebtedness of students in the program, to demonstrate that it is not high in comparison to return on investment, e.g., the time to pay off student loans before and after tuition increase (for information on student indebtedness contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid).

E.   The relationship between projected tuition revenue to institutional and/or program costs

Ideal effect: The increase in tuition would not unduly increase institutional and/or program costs.

Programs may:

  • show that costs to the institution for managing financial aid and tuition and other support will be minimal.
  • describe any costs to the program beyond what will be funded by the premium tuition.
  • demonstrate that the increased tuition will cover all or nearly all of the costs related to the changes supported by the increase. 

F.   Tuition and fees, net of remissions and waivers, charged by peer institutions or programs as compared to tuition and fees, net of remissions, for the program (the public subsidy received by students at public institutions or programs in the peer set, including the program in question, will also be identified as part of the comparison)

Ideal effect: The current tuition and fees (net remissions and waivers) are low in comparison to similar programs at peer institutions and would not become inordinately high in the same comparison if the proposed tuition increase were implemented.

Programs may:

  • compare tuition and fees with similar programs among peer institutions before and after the increase in tuition, demonstrating that the latter is still comparatively low.
  • include in the comparison the levels of public subsidy for all the public universities in the comparison including that of NC State.

G.   A plan for the intended use of additional tuition receipts (e.g., needed improvements to the educational program, funding for competitive salary increases, financial aid, etc.)

Ideal effect: The proposers have a clear and detailed plan for the use of the tuition increase.

Describe specifically and in detail what will be done with the increased tuition and how those actions are expected to benefit students. Refer to the budget to be created using Form A, which will be appended to your proposal.

H.  Assistantships or grant support for graduate students

Ideal effect: The program provides sufficient assistantships and/or grant support for its graduate students and/or will use the increased tuition to improve the level of graduate student support.

Programs may:

  • describe current assistantships and/or grant support for graduate students and evaluate the sufficiency of the support.
  • describe any assistantships that would be supported by the increase in tuition and the benefits of the added assistantships.

Internal Accounting for Premium Tuition

All premium tuition activity is accounted for (recorded) in the Academic Affairs (16030) budget code in “appropriated receipt” Lower Ledger 3 projects in the general fund.  As such these funds are subject to the spending guidelines pertaining to the General Fund as outlined in the “Spending Guidelines”.

  1. 301xxx project in program 101 for the operations (or 304xxx in 106 for Vet Med)
  2. 327xxx project in program 230 for financial aid
  3. 349xxx project in program 990 for the premium tuition revenue
  4. Set up in unique class 23379
  5. Best practice is to have each set of premium projects in the same Department/OUC.  If you have multiple premium programs, they should be in different Departments/OUC’s.

The three premium tuition projects (301xxx/304xxx, 327xxx, and 349xxx) together act like an “appropriated receipt.”  As such, the expense budget must equal the revenue budget, and only the associated expense budget equal to the realized revenue may be spent. 

Please contact the University Budget Office for detailed guidance on public queries created to help manage premium tuition projects.


For questions about this SOP or the proposal submission and review process, contact Interim Senior Vice Provost for Instructional Programs Courtney Thornton (