2015-16 UNC Wilmington Budget: Where Students Fit Into the Numbers

A little digging reveals how students are prioritized by the UNCW administration.

The 2015-16 UNC Wilmington budget provides insight into the whether the university is as invested in the development of its student body as it claims.

Breaking down the budget

In 2015, UNC Wilmington’s total expenses were $289 million.

Student Services, defined by North Carolina’s chart of accounts as any, “activity including functions and services of the institution which support and complement academic programs and enhance the total development of students by contributing to their cultural, social, intellectual, physical, and emotional maturation,” received $10.9 million (4 percent) of the total sum.

This includes, but is not excluded to, student admissions and records maintenance, student social and cultural development, counseling and career guidance, the development of the multiple groups and student run organizations and student financial aid administration.

The largest function, Instruction Expenses, totaled $100.6 million (35 percent) of the university’s budget. Instructional expenses are composed of a wide range of service but are primarily for the salaries and benefits of the university’s hired faculty.

Instructional expenses have received the largest increase of any budget item since 2006, and while not directly categorized as a “student service,” certainly go towards the betterment of the student body – improper support of faculty and staff would be a great disservice to the students attending the university.

More students = more expenses

In their financial statement, UNC Wilmington explains that the increase in student population over the years has demanded a proportional increase in their faculty numbers. From 2006 to 2015 the campus population has grown from 11.5 thousand students and 776 faculty members, to 14.6 thousand students and 997 faculty members.

In 2006, the average cost per semester for an undergraduate student was $2,080 for in-state and $7,047 for out-of-state. Current semester undergraduate expenses have raised to $3,345 for in-state and $10,278 for out-of-state.

The bigger picture

Student Services is not alone in earning a lower end of the school’s budget. Academic Support ($18.4 million, 6 percent), including funding for Randall Library which provides an essential learning environment for studying students, has been consistently underserved. Likewise, Institutional Support ($22.7 million, 7 percent), which, “provides continuous general operational support to the institution,” receives a proportionately small sum.

Student Financial Aid, however, did receive a drastic increase in spending (nearly an additional $12 million increase from 2006’s $6.5 million expense) according to the 2006 financial report.

Student Financial Aid includes, “money available for distribution among students enrolled in a degree or certified programs at the institution.”

Yes, Student Services is one of the many functions getting a smaller chunk of the university’s budget, but that does not necessarily mean it is an inadequate sum. When compiled together with Academic Support and Instructional expenses, UNCW allocates roughly $53 million (18 percent) toward student-development.

The remaining $236 million is used to manage institutional support and maintaining the university’s facilities and enterprises, essential expenses if the university is to continue providing a safe and functional learning environment.


Some students may feel disappointed when seeing where they financially fit into UNC Wilmington’s budget but can come to find that they are getting more than what it may seem. Furthermore, with all the student run organizations, intramural club sports, available counseling for students and open Student Government positions, students are always able to take their educational endeavors into their own hands at UNC Wilmington.

Ultimately, UNC Wilmington allocates its funds in such a way that emphasizes student success, while giving appropriate attention to other essential, non-student costs.


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Header image: Adobe Stock


Posted 10.11.2016 - 01:00 pm EDT

Filed under

college budget college debt college education

Written by

Joel Barrio