During Thursday’s full Board of Trustees meeting, Student Body President Mary Cooper’s thoughtful proposal was briefly acknowledged by the trustees but dismissed as a real alternative.
Standing up to the board on behalf of more than 500 students’ stories she has collected over the past two weeks, Cooper asked the trustees for one thing: time. If the board could only postpone the vote until December, she suggested, alternative proposals could be further developed and seriously considered. In Cooper’s own words, “We did this with one Excel document, with Google and a weekend.”
Imagine what we could do in one more month.
It is clear to students that our University has critical needs. As the members of the tuition and fee advisory task force and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney have demonstrated, we are losing professors to universities that can give them the pay they deserve. And the University has been forced to cut about 16,000 course seats.
State budget cuts are hurting our university — and something must be done.
But this budgetary side of the story has been allowed to dominate the conversation. The real impact of tuition hikes, especially on low- and middle-income students, has not been sufficiently discussed.
It’s commendable that UNC is keeping its commitment to providing 100 percent of need-based financial aid. But, as students, we know that aid packages do not cover all costs. We know that there are more loans on the way for many of us, nonetheless.
We don’t know how much greater the student debt burden will be (though we expect that it will be substantially greater) and the board does not seem to know any of this information either.
Meanwhile, students have begun developing alternative solutions that protect the quality of this university without giving up its founding principle of public accessibility. The board has indicated that these alternatives have promise but need to be further developed. Before we commit to Carney’s proposal, we need to make sure the student alternatives are given a fighting chance.
The board ignored Cooper’s motion to postpone the vote and left her as the lone dissenting vote.
But this fight is not over.
We have until February, when the Board of Governors casts its final vote on the plan, to do the research that remains to be done and — above all — to mobilize.
According to the (Raleigh) News & Observer, BOG member Fred Eshelman said, “It’s absolutely counterintuitive if you say when the economy goes to hell, we make people pay more.”
Eshelman is right. UNC can preserve its quality in a way that is more humane and publicly minded than the impending plan. And if Eshelman’s words are any indication, we will have at least one ally at the board meeting in February.
With time, research and an organized student body, I bet a few more can be won over.
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