The University’s desperate search for funding has thrust Student Body President Mary Cooper into the spotlight.
In anticipation of another round of millions cut in state funding, Cooper finds herself in the middle of a dispute between two opposing forces: administrators, who say tuition increases are necessary to maintain academic quality, and students, many of whom say they can’t handle the financial burden of further hikes.
And the recent proposition of in-state tuition hikes as large as $2,800 — an unprecedented 40 percent — during the next two to four years has Cooper struggling to craft a plan that balances both sides of the debate.
Up until this point, Cooper has been sympathetic to the rationale for hikes in meetings and interviews. But as students begin to weigh in, Cooper has become aware of the difficult balance.
“At the end of the day, my job is to represent the students,” she said.
“But it’s a definite balance that I have to strike. I think the most important thing I can do is communicate between both sides.”
Although the UNC-system Board of Governors will not begin reviewing campus tuition proposals until next year, a memorandum sent by the system’s general administration Oct. 18 suggested increases above the 6.5 percent cap might be considered.
“That increase might mean students may not be able to come back to Chapel Hill next year,” Cooper said.
If an increase of $2,800 over a multi-year period is approved, Cooper said she would fight to keep the University’s financial aid commitments intact.