Stand against ?nancial aid cap

As students at UNC, we often take for granted how incredibly lucky we are. We’ve had the privilege of attending a university that prides itself on inclusivity, affordability and excellence.

UNC is one of only two public universities in the whole country that meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need, and we do it while maintaining a high standard of academic excellence. Our strong financial aid program is the foundation of this proudly public institution. Recent events make me concerned this foundation could be in jeopardy.

To provide some context, in the face of declining state appropriations and rising tuition costs, UNC has been able to sustain its financial aid model by using a percentage of revenue from tuition increases to fund student aid. This process started during the 2000-01 academic year, and it’s the reason that we’ve been able to remain truly accessible.

Currently, UNC uses 38 percent of the revenue from the last tuition increase for need-based financial aid to support the 43 percent of our undergraduate student population on need-based financial aid. Right now, the UNC-system Board of Governors, which governs the state-wide university system, is discussing a 25 percent cap on tuition revenue for aid.

For our university, a cap would pose a significant and long-term structural problem in sustaining UNC’s financial aid program, one that would be too large for private giving or state appropriations to overcome.

Why are these discussions occurring? Public universities have been feeling the strain of the nationwide economic crisis.

It’s also a common misconception that tuition revenue for aid hurts the middle class. At UNC, over half of need-based aid recipients come from middle or upper class families. Consequently, it’s difficult to justify a policy that could impact the financial stability of a large portion of our students.

If the Board of Governors introduce a 25 percent cap, the cap would theoretically shave $6.83 per month off the tuition in-state non-aid recipients pay – roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee. To most Tar Heels, that $6.83 seems like an extraordinarily small price to pay to retain our campus culture and academic experience.

My team can’t tackle this issue on our own, and we need your help. But before you pick up the phone or send an email, I encourage you to get educated.

This is an issue that virtually all university stakeholders at UNC can agree upon — that our university should be able to decide how to structure our own financial aid model. Student government is in the process of compiling a huge amount of resources and action items that will be available on our website next week, so you can make your own assessments and act accordingly. Until then, you can always contact me directly.

Should this issue surface at the Board of Governors meeting in August, it will be a critical opportunity for all of us to demonstrate that UNC is not a place that just values academic excellence, but takes its position as a flagship public institution to heart.

Thanks for reading.

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