With budget cuts looming on the horizon, Student Body President Mary Cooper has set up a system through which students can make their voices heard as the state legislature finalizes those cuts this summer.
The student government advocacy team, a new executive committee, will email students during the summer with instructions on how to lobby legislators, Cooper said. The team will also organize weekly trips to Raleigh to lobby the legislature personally.
Cooper said it is crucial to implement the new system now so students can become educated and involved before budget decisions are made.Last summer, administrators added a $750 supplement to the tuition proposal already approved. Administrators and student leaders have said throughout the year that a higher supplement is likely this year.
Cooper’s predecessor, Hogan Medlin, expressed frustration last summer that he was not involved in the supplement decision.
And Cooper said she wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“We need to be able to step in and say, ‘When you vote on this, you are affecting me,’” said Zealan Hoover, student body vice president.
Cooper’s executive branch officers will go from classroom to classroom over the next week, she said, encouraging students to sign up for a listserv that will keep them apprised of summer developments.
“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for students to know what they can do to make a difference,” Cooper said.
Although the N.C. House appropriations subcommittee on education has already proposed cutting 17.4 percent of the UNC system’s budget, Hoover said the University needs to lower that number to between 10 and 12 percent.
Members of Cooper’s administration also said they hope to limit any supplements.
“(Legislators) made a promise that students can come here to get a four-year education, and if they raise tuition considerably then there are students who won’t be coming back next year,” Hoover said.
Holly Boardman, former student body vice president, said adding more student voices might help protect the University from excessive cuts.
“Student voices are critical,” Boardman said. “Legislators need to hear them and they respond to them.”
But she added that advocacy efforts don’t guarantee a positive result.
“There may be only a marginal amount that they can do when they are faced with cutting millions of dollars out of the budget,” Boardman said.
Members of the team are also emphasizing the importance of protecting financial aid.
“We really want to fight for financial aid because they want to gut it, and for the life of us we don’t understand how they can do that,” Hoover said.
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