In the 1970s, the threat of in-state tuition increases from the N.C. General Assembly hit the UNC system — but with the efforts of a student group, the proposals were taken off the table.
Robert Lucas, a former student body president of East Carolina University, formed a group that encompassed all 17 institutions in the system — the N.C. Association of Student Body Presidents.
The group, which is now the Association of Student Governments, helped stop the increases, and Lucas, who is now chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, said the same victory could be achieved with today’s potential tuition increases.
“(ASG has) the power of all the schools together,” he said. “Just like in 1975, they could certainly do it in 2012.”
But as ASG plans to lobby against tuition hikes, outside critics doubt the association’s effectiveness. Members of UNC-CH’s Student Congress plan to attend the association’s monthly meeting Saturday to observe and critique its proceedings.
The association is composed of student leaders from each campus, and it is funded from an annual $1 fee from all students in the system.
Members of the group will meet at UNC-Pembroke to discuss system President Thomas Ross’ pending tuition increase recommendation.
Ross announced last week that he would not support tuition and fee increases exceeding 10 percent, which was below many UNC-system schools’ proposals.
Ross, who is expected to release his recommendation this month, will talk with the association about his pending proposal through a video-conference call — a first in recent history, said ASG President Atul Bhula.
“I like Tom Ross’ parameters that he’s set more than the campus proposals because it keeps student tuition lower,” he said.
Marc Seelinger, a member of UNC-CH’s Student Congress, said he plans to sponsor a resolution that, if approved, will allow students to vote on UNC’s participation in ASG in the spring.
“They’ve been remarkably silent over the past few weeks as administrators have kicked around unprecedented tuition increases,” he said in an email.
“Aside from the fact that we are paying ASG to facilitate these sorts of things, I would think that they would want to be a bit more involved, just given the size of the increases.”
Seelinger will attend Saturday’s meeting, along with Zach De La Rosa, speaker of UNC-CH’s Student Congress.
“The first question I am going to ask Atul at this meeting is what exactly his role (in the tuition process) has been,” De La Rosa said.
The role of the association and its president in the tuition process has had varied expectations.
Gary Mauney, the association president in 1986, said he focused primarily on presenting student input to the board and legislature.
“As president of ASG, my clients were the campuses, and my judges and juries were either the General Assembly or the Board of Governors, and I had to effectively make my clients’ cases,” he said.
Bhula, a non-voting member of the board, said he focuses on one-on-one interaction with members.
“I don’t know how much interaction my predecessors have had with board members outside the meeting rooms, but I think that’s where board members see where students are coming from.”
He said he sees his role as connecting the student body presidents with the board.
“Student input during this time is critical,” he said.
In addition to discussing tuition on Saturday, Bhula said he might ask the association to take a stance on Gov. Bev Perdue’s proposed sales tax increase, which would direct the revenue it generates toward education.
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