The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 18th

Viewpoints: Tuition status is unfair

THE ISSUE: A 2005 state law allows UNC-system schools to count out-of-state students on full scholarship — athletes or merit scholars — as in-state students. This allows organizations that support these scholarships to pay the university in-state tuition for these students, a difference of $17,888 per student per year. Is this law fair?

This law gives an unjust subsidy to the groups that need it least.

Through the law, the organizations that pay these scholarships save a bundle of money — at the expense of North Carolina taxpayers. UNC’s Rams Club, the University’s athletic booster, receives a $10 million annual subsidy because of the law.

Having the taxpayers subsidize such groups is unacceptable and reprehensible. The Rams Club, as of last summer, had $260 million in net assets, and the Morehead-Cain Foundation had $222 million.

It’s the responsibility of these organizations to raise the money to fund their projects. As their balance sheets indicate, these groups are not hurting for money.

Students’ tuition rates are based on their residency status. This law creates an arbitrary distinction to benefit a few organizations that already have massive net assets and incredibly strong fundraising and money-generating operations. State taxpayers shouldn’t have to aid these groups.

Even in this economy, the Rams Club plans to go ahead with a $72 million expansion to Kenan Stadium — paid for by donors. And at the same time, they have the audacity to condone a law that forces struggling taxpayers to subsidize athletic scholarships.

Some argue that because UNC athletics bring in money to the University, the law is justified. This reasoning is backwards. If athletics really do bring in millions that in turn benefit the University, then they certainly don’t need a giant taxpayer subsidy.

It’s not clear that changing the law to help taxpayers would have a major impact on this or decrease the amount revenue the major organizations are able to generate.

The law doesn’t make this practice mandatory. But it says that if a school accepts, it must agree not to decrease the number of in-state students it admits.

Enrollment grows naturally every year, and only under extreme circumstances would the number of in-state students decline. So, law or no law, in-state enrollment is going to increase, and North Carolina residents will benefit.

In fact, this law might harm the University by forcing it to grow in enrollment at a faster pace than it can handle.

If UNC wants to address the issue of out-of-state students and being competitive with peer institutions, that’s a debate to be had directly. The University shouldn’t look for backdoor ways to get around the cap on out-of-staters, especially in a way that costs taxpayers millions.

The bottom line is that this law unfairly burdens taxpayers and aids organizations that frankly don’t need the help.

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