The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday September 20th

Work needed to fulfill mission

Like any good Catholic, I'll begin this column with a confession: I once thought about going to Duke.

It's not that I never wanted to go to UNC - quite the contrary. For reasons that I still can't figure out, I grew up a Tar Heel fan in Yankee country. I prayed for the boys in baby blue before the '93 national championship game against Michigan, and when Chris Webber called that timeout, I was sure I had a friend in the Man upstairs.

But after IBM uprooted our family and sent us to North Carolina, I wasn't sure what to do. UNC beckoned - but so did Duke with its promise of prestige and wealth.

Ironically enough, money ultimately was what sent me to Chapel Hill, as UNC threw a good amount of it a year my way. Duke actually offered more, but even after the $10,000-per-year scholarship and the work-study and the subsidized loans, it'd have cost me more to go there for one year than it's cost me to go to UNC for four.

This is not some banal, anti-Duke parable; I'll save that for basketball season. I just think it's important to consider what sends us to the schools we choose. It tends to say a lot.

In my case, the story is one of cost and accessibility. I am by no means from a poor family, but I also wore hand-me-downs through middle school. It wasn't until we moved down here that my folks really got the chance to start saving money. By then, it was too late to save enough to send me to college debt-free.

So attending UNC instead of Duke was a financial godsend, not just a convenient way to save some money that I could've blown on 12-packs.

This brings me, as I imagine you're expecting, to University Day.

I'm glad North Carolina's founders picked Oct. 12 as the date to found the University. The Lord blessed the first few weeks of autumn in Chapel Hill; it's the time of year that leads to prose about the wind whistling through the Davie Poplar or raindrops cascading down the Old Well.

Lucky for you all, though, I'm no poet.

Instead, let me wax lyrical about something else that's going on this week: The campus Tuition Task Force, led by Student Body President Seth Dearmin and Provost Robert Shelton, likely will send its recommendations for cost hikes to the Board of Trustees.

The plans weren't finalized by press time. But basically, if you're an in-state undergraduate, you could be looking at a hike between $250 and $300; nonresidents might face increases between $600 and $900.

I'm not against reasonable cost hikes. And after last year's move to halt tuition increases for in-state students, I recognize that they're inevitable and probably necessary.

But when news of yet more hikes comes during the same week as University Day, it makes me think.

If we continue to raise tuition, are we living up to our campus motto of lux, libertas - light and liberty?

Can the University really survive without subjecting us to the same hikes other universities are putting in front of their students?

Is it fair that at a school where students' median family income is close to $100,000, we gripe about tuition increases - while low-paid workers subsidize our education through taxes?

Those aren't easy questions. But I'm afraid that between the rush to raise costs and the battles between UNC-Chapel Hill and the rest of the UNC-system campuses, we're not even trying to get the answers.

It's not enough to make me wish I'd gone to Duke. But I can't say I won't be thinking about it Wednesday.

 

Contact Chris Coletta at ccoletta@email.unc.edu.

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