The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday April 2nd

Jasmin Jones meeting with N.C. legislators

Wants revenue from tuition increase returned to schools

Some state legislators say chances are slim that the UNC system will see any of the revenue generated by the state-mandated tuition increase.

Student Body President Jasmin Jones began a meeting with N.C. General Assembly representatives last week to discuss UNC System President Erskine Bowles’ plan to return tuition revenues to system schools.

The General Assembly passed a mandate last summer increasing tuition by the lesser of $200 or 8 percent at all system schools. The average system-wide increase would be $180.

Bowles’ plan would allow universities to draw money back from the state-mandated tuition hike ­— which increased tuition by the lesser of $200 or 8 percent last summer. The revenue would otherwise go to the state’s general fund.

If legislators decide to return part of the revenue, it will be used for need-based aid and for improving graduation and retention rates at system schools.

So far, Jones has met with N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, N.C. Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, N.C. Rep. Robert Grady, R-Onslow, and N.C. Rep. William Current, R-Gaston.

“It was a war,” Jones said Thursday. “I’m not asking them to vote, I’m asking them to hear the students.”

Even though legislators said they supported the plan, they said it would be hard for the appropriations committee to approve it because of the state’s economic woes.

The overall appropriation committee might reject the plan to return the revenue, even if the education subcommittee supports it, Kinnaird said.

“At this point, the likelihood of it going back to the institution is low,” she said.

Ross, a UNC law school alumna, said she was in favor of returning funds to the system, but said it’s too early to predict what legislators might include in next year’s budget.

Student body presidents from different campuses will be joining Jones in her efforts to sway legislators from key committees.

Jones said that student government will need to perform additional research and come up with concrete numbers in order to shore up their arguments.

“What’s been working is personal stories,” she said.

The Association of Student Governments, which represents students of UNC-system schools, will be discussing strategies to lobby legislators at their next meeting.

ASG is trying to get 25,000 students from across the system to sign a petition in support of Bowles’ plan. Jones has been spearheading that effort at UNC-CH .

“We can’t be by ourselves on this,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, UNC administrators said they remain optimistic that schools will receive money back from the state.

Interim Provost Bruce Carney said the measure would mean that UNC-CH could see its coffers expand by $5.3 million if all of the $200 increase was returned.

“I’m hopeful,” Carney said, adding, “It’s (the students’) money.”

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