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The Daily Tar Heel

Tuition survey seeks student opinion, ideas

Faced with a $3.5 billion state budget shortfall and an anticipated $54 million in cuts to the University, student government is seeking to measure just how much students think their bills should rise.

It is doing so by conducting an online survey that asks for students’ opinions on how they want the University to deal with imminent budget cuts. The survey was issued Monday and results will be collected through Dec. 1.

Student Body Vice President Holly Boardman said student government representatives plan to send out mass e-mails and make appearances in the Pit and lecture halls in the next few weeks, reminding students to give their input in the survey.

“We want to finally get an answer to the question of what students want to happen with tuition,” she said. “I think a lot of students care about tuition, and for the five minutes the survey takes, I think they’ll participate.”

The state legislature won’t reconvene until January, but Student Body Secretary Ian Lee said student government needs to prepare in order to make a compelling case in the face of steep budget cuts.

“If we’re going to go to Raleigh with an effective message, we need to find out where students stand now,” he said.

“With the budget cuts this year, it’s too important that students have a voice for us to be wavering on this issue.”

Based on whether students are in-state, out-of-state or international, the survey asks questions including whether they think the University has done a good job of absorbing budget cuts, whether they think out-of-state tuition costs are fair and whether they think administrators could do a better job of protecting students from tuition increases.

“The most interesting question on there for me is where it asks students to choose between affordability and quality,” said Dakota Williams, student body treasurer. “That’s the one I’m really looking forward to hear results from.”

Lee said that there is a misconception among state legislators that students just don’t want to pay higher tuition, but that’s not always the case.

“Students are much more well-informed than legislators often give us credit for,” he said. “Nobody wants to pay more, but there’s a cost-benefit balance that we have to maintain.”

Erin Schuettpelz, a lobbyist for the University, said the General Assembly usually takes student opinions seriously.
“The legislature does want to hear student thoughts on issues like tuition,” she said.

As for the debate between preserving affordability or academic quality, Boardman said state legislators know UNC has a certain prestige to its academics that can’t be ignored.

“We’re never going to cut back academics so much that a degree from Carolina loses its value,” she said.

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