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UNC Association of Student Governments talks tuition hikes

BOONE — As UNC-system administrators prepare to draw up tuition-increase proposals, student leaders this weekend discussed where they stand on the issue.

The UNC-system Association of Student Governments met Saturday at Appalachian State University to discuss tuition and also passed an initiative, which they hope will give students more of a voice in legislative decisions.

ASG is composed of leaders from each of the system’s 17 institutions and is funded by an annual $1 student fee.

The association’s council of student body presidents discussed the balance of protecting the system’s quality of education and keeping tuition affordable.

The state legislature enacted a 15.6 percent — $414 million — budget cut to the system this summer, and administrators say more cuts could be coming.

Renee Bindewald, student body president of UNC-Asheville, said she is worried about the implications of not increasing tuition to offset the cuts.

“You’re going to end up with horrible universities across the state,” she said.

The system’s new tuition policy allows schools to propose an increase above the 6.5 percent cap as long as they can justify it.

Mary Cooper, UNC-CH student body president, said the student opposition to propose tuition hikes has been strong.

“There are students in Chapel Hill right now who don’t want me to be student body president anymore because I am considering raising tuition by 6.5 percent,” Cooper said.

ASG President Atul Bhula said he will talk with student body presidents individually before the association’s January meeting, when they will develop a unified stance on tuition increases.

The association approved the “Cuts Hurt,” initiative — a lobbying tactic that many association members believe will give students a voice in future tuition decisions.

Christine Hajdin, vice president of the association’s legislative and public affairs committee, said the project will be a compilation of student-submitted videos of how they have been affected by budget cuts.

Hajdin said she will present the finalized documentary to members of U.S. Congress in February and state legislators in March.

T.J. Eaves, student body president of Western Carolina University, said the project will allow students to have a say in the tuition conversation.

“They want to speak up, and this is a forum where they can do it,” he said.

Cooper said passing “Cuts Hurt” was a tangible result of the association’s monthly meeting.

“Thank you for allowing us to go back and say we’ve done something for our students,” she said.

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