Money woes: Boy Scouts of America mortgages popular ranch as the wave of sex-abuse cases grows. Page A11
GREENSBORO — The city’s two public universities both want to raise tuition rates for incoming students for the first time in three years.
UNCG and N.C. A&T trustees at separate meetings Friday approved proposals to raise tuition for most students and fees for all students for the 2020-21 school year. The rates aren’t final until a vote by the UNC System Board of Governors, which probably will happen in March.
Both boards propose to raise tuition by 3% — the maximum allowed by the UNC System office this year — for new undergraduate students from North Carolina. UNCG wants to increase tuition over current rates by $133 to $4,555. A&T wants a $106 increase to raise tuition to $3,646 annually.
These new rates would apply only to new in-state freshmen or transfer students. Returning undergraduates from North Carolina will pay their current rate of tuition — $4,422 at UNCG and $3,540 at A&T — thanks to a 2016 plan that fixes tuition for in-state undergraduates for up to eight consecutive semesters.
UNCG is proposing a 3% increase for out-of-state undergraduates and all graduate students. A&T, meanwhile, is proposing a $50 increase for out-of-state undergraduates. Tuition for most of A&T master’s and doctoral students won’t change.
UNCG leaders say they plan to use about half of the additional tuition revenue for three new programs to improve student retention and graduation rates. The rest of the money would be split between increasing the amount of graduate student tuition waivers and giving raises to professors who are promoted or receive tenure.
A&T said it plans to put its new tuition revenue toward student success programs, faculty and staff development and merit scholarships.
UNCG is proposing to raise general student fees by 2.7% to $2,943 annually. A&T trustees approved a plan for a fee increase of 2.8%, or $85, to $3,096 annually. State law caps increases in general student fees at 3% annually
While tuition and state appropriations covers the basic expenses of operating each university, general student fees go to five specific student-focused areas: athletics, education and technology, health services, student activities and campus safety.
Officials from both universities said the bulk of these fee increases will cover state-mandated employee raises and higher prices due to inflation.
UNCG plans to use student fee money to hire another psychologist for its Student Health Center and raise salaries of campus police officers and other police department personnel. UNCG officials say those salaries are below market rates, which has made it harder to hire and keep police department employees.
A&T’s new student fee money will support its marching band, create a resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, hire more students to staff the university’s computer help desk and continue to upgrade academic technology used across campus.
Neither school is asking for a change in their debt service fee, which covers the construction cost of non-academic buildings used mainly by students.
UNC System schools charge a variety of fees that aren’t subject to Board of Governors approval.
On Friday, UNCG said it’s raising its application fee by $15 to $80. This money is used to run the admissions office.
A&T will increase its meal plan rates by $100 and its on-campus housing rates by $300 next year. A&T says it will use this money to improve the dining service, offer extended hours at on-campus restaurants and upgrade the wireless internet in campus residence halls.
A&T also will raise its shuttle service fee by $12 to $93 to expand operating hours and add more campus bus stops.
RALEIGH — After the release of findings from an independent investigation into a North Carolina permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the issue landed in the middle of the 2020 elections as Lt. Gov. Dan Forest called on the FBI to do its own investigation into Gov. Roy Cooper and the pipeline.
Forest, a Republican who is running against Cooper, said the FBI should investigate the Democratic governor over the pipeline permitting process and a fund meant to offset potential damage from the pipeline.
The report was issued almost two years after Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled General Assembly first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a “pay-for-permit” in the state’s approvals for the pipeline. Legislators hired outside investigators to produce the report, which found that Cooper “improperly used the authority and influence of his office” but did not personally benefit from those decisions.
The Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline in 2018, and at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline. The natural gas pipeline would travel through West Virginia, Virginia and then North Carolina, where it would follow the Interstate 95 corridor. It would end in Robeson County in the state’s southeast
Cooper’s office maintains that the fund was negotiated separately from the permitting process and was not conditional on the fund. Duke Energy has said the same.
Duke Energy is one of the partners behind the 600-mile underground pipeline project. The others are Dominion Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.
At the end of their report, investigators wrote that while the report “was not conducted for the purpose of identifying criminal violations and the information has not been evaluated to determine if specific criminal statutes have been violated ... the information suggests that criminal violations may have occurred.”
“An investigative agency with the authority to compel cooperation and the production of documents could potentially obtain additional information to identify violations of criminal statutes,” the report’s authors wrote.
In a news release, Forest claimed repeatedly that “someone is lying” and he wants the FBI’s public corruption unit to get involved.
“The CEO of Duke Energy says she met face-to-face, alone, with the governor; the governor denies such a meeting took place. Someone is lying. The governor says he did not sign off on the pipeline, but emails, timelines, and texts from his top aides say otherwise. Someone is lying. The governor’s top aide claims the creation of the fund was Duke Energy’s idea and Duke Energy states otherwise. Someone is lying,” Forest said in an emailed statement from his office and his campaign.
“People are lying, and they need to be put under oath, under threat of perjury, and reanswer these questions. I call on the Public Corruption Unit of the FBI to step up and do their job,” Forest said in his statement.
However, the report repeatedly states that Cooper met with Lynn Good, the chief executive officer of Duke Energy, and on Thursday, a Cooper spokeswoman said the governor has never denied the meeting.
On the issue of whether the fund was Duke Energy’s idea, the report concluded that there’s no documentation to show that.
“Even though, information, as listed in this report, shows that Duke was not contemplating a fund prior to November 30, 2017, some Duke executives said that Duke had considered the creation of a fund prior to that date. ... Duke has not produced any documents to show a fund was being considered by Duke, prior to November 30, 2017.”
The report says that “information from Dominion (Energy, another of the pipeline partners) shows that a paragraph was purposely added to the first draft of fund to allow for other uses beyond mitigation of interior forest habitat. No Duke Executives could explain why the first draft was written and submitted in this way.”
Cooper adviser Ken Eudy suggested that the draft was based on a template of Virginia’s agreement for its own fund, according to the report.
Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement in response to Forest on Thursday:
“The Lieutenant Governor has taken more than $2 million from a donor indicted for bribing an elected official, and he has even more facts wrong about this than the Republicans’ investigators did. The permit process was left to experts at DEQ as they have said dozens of times, and it is Republicans who hijacked a fund meant to create jobs in Eastern North Carolina. The Republicans’ story changes every time they run into inconvenient facts, and North Carolina would be better off if they’d spend this energy on raising teacher pay and expanding Medicaid.”
Last year, the legislature took control of the fund away from Cooper and redirected the money to schools in the pipeline area.
The legislature adjourned for the year earlier this month without any teacher raises becoming law, nor Medicaid expansion, which are both issues at the center of the monthslong budget stalemate between the Republican-majority General Assembly and Cooper.
All 170 legislative seats and the governorship are up for election in 2020. Candidate filing will begin Dec. 2. Both Forest and Cooper campaigns have been active for months. Republican state Rep. Holly Grange is also running for governor. The primary election is March 3.
GREENSBORO — Regional jets have always been the barely-tolerated stepchild of big jets like the Boeing 737.
But they’re a necessary evil in the airline business that often doesn’t need to deploy larger jets in smaller markets with fewer passengers — like the Piedmont Triad. Regional jets typically cram 70 passengers into a smaller twin-engine craft with cramped luggage storage and limited service, often as the first or last leg of a connecting trip to the smallest airports.
But United Airlines wants to change that, turning the dowdy little jets into a first-class experience that greets executive passengers at even the smallest airports where they often begin long journeys.
“If they’re flying Greensboro to London, Greensboro to Tokyo, we’re able to offer premium from end-to-end” said Nick Depner, United Airlines’ director of sales. “We’re very proud of that.”
United says it’s the first airline in the world to offer truly first-class seats in a regional jet.
United showed off its reconfigured Bombardier CRJ-550 Friday on the concrete apron at Piedmont Triad International Airport to media and corporate travel managers.
Greensboro is one of the first markets to get one of United’s 10 reconfigured regional jets. The jet they showed off Friday will be making regular flights to Chicago from PTI.
From the outside it’s an unremarkable jet, but inside, the fresh, new seats and large first-class section of the cabin say that this is a different kind of travel experience for the high-end passenger.
Instead of finding a way to squeeze more seats onto a plane like many airlines do, United removed 20 seats from the CRJ-550 and created room for 10 high-profit, first-class seats up front. The wide seats have legroom for days and something few airlines can offer: A self-service snack and drink bar.
The jets have only one flight attendant who will have to balance duties up front with serving the economy-class passengers in the rear.
While the flight attendant is occupied, passengers up front can help themselves to a well-stocked cabinet filled with cookies, deli snacks, bananas and drinks available in glass tumblers. Hardly the conical plastic cups and pretzels you’ll see in economy.
“This is the kind of stuff passengers have always wanted to touch and never been able to do it,” Depner said.
Even economy-class passengers benefit from the changes. The aircraft features enough space for 70 roll-on bags, far more than the 50 spots available previously in such jets.
United currently makes two daily flights between Greensboro and Chicago on the jets but by spring there will be at least four flights a day on the planes, including routes to Dulles International Airport and Newark.
On any given day the airline makes between 11 and 14 flights in and out of PTI.
United spokesman Luke Punzenberger said the new jets offer Greensboro passengers a private jet experience in the small cabin of a commercial airliner.
Greensboro is one of the first markets to get the modified jets, with only 10 in use systemwide by United. By next year the airline plans to be flying 54 of the special jets.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say this is going to be revolutionary,” said Punzenberger. “It’s a regional flying experience unlike anything I’ve seen.”