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Policy Elimination Dismays Student Leaders

Student leaders said Thursday they were dismayed by a clause in the state budget that removes the Board of Governors' tuition-setting guidelines.

But leaders offered differing opinions on whether the new policy would result in more tuition increases.

The clause essentially eliminates guidelines the BOG adopted in 1998 for setting tuition at UNC-system campuses.

The BOG's policy before the budget passed was to only accept campus-initiated tuition increases in emergency situations. "It definitely goes against the board's policy, which required campuses to only ask for increases when there were emergencies," said Andrew Payne, president of the UNC Association of Student Governments. "It's a bad policy for the General Assembly to set."

But Payne said he doesn't necessarily think the new policy will lead to more campus-initiated tuition increases.

"The Board of Governors was not even following its own policy to begin with -- it wasn't following the emergency circumstance clause, so I don't think you'll see any more," Payne said, noting that the BOG has approved campus-initiated tuition requests at 11 system schools since 1998. "The General Assembly clarified what the BOG was already practicing."

Darryl Willie, student body president at N.C. State University, also said he thinks the BOG will pass some tuition increases regardless of its formal policy. "I don't foresee too big of a problem because they have to vote on it anyway," he said.

But Justin Young, student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill, said he thinks the new policy will lead to more increases because individual schools have to prove a low level of need to justify raising tuitions. "It's not comforting to know your tuition can go up basically to fill some extra need without a check of some higher power," Young said.

UNC-CH Chancellor James Moser announced last month that he is planning to propose a five-year tuition increase.

Former ASG President Jeff Nieman was a member of the committee that helped craft the BOG's tuition policy and said he is worried that making individual campuses responsible for determining when a tuition increase is needed will create a disparity between campuses. "The reason we set a uniform policy is that we are concerned about the idea of having a big separation from campus to campus," Nieman said, adding that he is particularly concerned trustees at UNC-CH and N.C. State will pursue large tuition increases.

"There is a philosophy among members of the trustees at Chapel Hill and (N.C.) State that as long as people out there can pay, we should continue to raise tuition as much as the market can bear," he said. "You have trustees who, if they had their druthers, would triple tuition."

Young said he is mostly upset because students were not told about the change.

"A lot of stuff goes on at the General Assembly without the input of a lot of important people, including the students," he said. "What we need is a guarantee of how much we're going to pay and how much our wallet is going to be affected."

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