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N.C. Lawmakers Weigh Bills for Student BOG Vote

Students from the 16 UNC-system schools came to the UNC Association of Student Governments Students' Day at the Capitol to lobby legislators for three issues -- student vote on the BOG, need-based financial aid packages and a 6 percent increase in faculty salaries.

Two similar bills concerning calling for a student vote on the BOG were proposed in the House and Senate.

General Assembly members said they welcome and appreciate the students' lobbying effort.

Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said she was glad to meet students face-to-face.

She expressed her support by signing the House bill calling for a student vote on the BOG.

"The universities exist for students, and they are the next generation," she said. "It's important that they have an influence on the board."

Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, who sponsored the bill in the House, said she is proud of the students.

"They have begun to learn how this process works. They are citizens' lobbyists," she said. "The educational and university system is all about students. They should be part of that process."

Adams added that she expects the bill to pass.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, also said she hopes the bill will be passed this year.

"The point is students are the people being governed -- they are our future leaders," she said.

ASG President Andrew Payne echoed Kinnaird, saying Students' Day at the Capitol was an excellent change in the history of student government.

"We've made a pledge," Payne said. "We left a lasting impression on the legislative body. If it wouldn't have happened this year, it'd never have happened."

Students leaders also pushed for two other bills that could be on the horizon -- a need-based financial aid package and a 6 percent increase in faculty salaries.

But several lawmakers said a tight budget could doom both pieces of legislation.

Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Durham, said she is not sure the need-based financial aid package and faculty salary increase will pass due to budget problems.

Weiss added that students need to think about the budget as a whole.

"Students need to realize where their tax money goes," she said. "The responsibility of government is not just about universities."

Kinnaird also said faculty salary increases would be difficult because of the tight budget.

But Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Cleveland, said faculty salary increases are important because they enhance the quality of the system.

He said the UNC system helps define North Carolina and gives great benefits to the state.

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"We are aware we must keep them competitive," he said. "We need to maintain that excellence."

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