RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The University of North Carolina System stretches from the coastal plains to the mountains.

Long before it grew to 16 institutions, the state’s forefathers made sure college tuition remained as low as possible. They did so by writing it into the state constitution.

“We take each of our 16 universities, match them up against their peers nationally to see where we rank in terms of cost and tuition, and we are always in the lowest quarter compared to their peers,” said UNC System President Peter Hans.

Now for the seventh year in a row, in-state tuition will not increase, making North Carolina the only state to reach that milestone.

“More importantly we’ve got a moral obligation. As generously funded as we are by the people of this state to make sure that a higher education is affordable and accessible to them, particularly in times of high inflation and ever-rising college costs across the country, I want North Carolina to be the counter-example to that national story of more student debt and higher costs,” said Hans.

Millions of in-state UNC System students have been able to ride the ups and downs of the economy for generations– whereas that is not the case for tuition at most private schools.

Currently, there are four UNC schools — Western Carolina, UNC Pembroke, Fayetteville State and Elizabeth City State — that are part of what’s called the North Carolina Promise program. Tuition at those schools is just $500 a semester.

But even though there is a cap on fees, the cost of housing, food and books is not inflation proof. Keeping tuition flat doesn’t come without sacrifice.

“We have chosen to prioritize what I call the academic core of the university, that is the quality of the instruction, invest in our faculty and staff so we can serve the students most effectively. And that may mean making some hard decisions about what’s actually worth spending money on. But I think the people of the state expect that from the university,” said Hans.