With the Friday approval of a tuition increase for both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years comes a change in focus for next year’s student body president.
In recent history, the role of the student body president has been to craft an alternative tuition proposal to administrators on behalf of students. But now that the next two years’ proposals have been approved by the UNC-system Board of Governors, that role will likely change.
Although they won’t have to craft a specific proposal, student body president hopefuls said the issue will still be in the forefront of their minds.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney said it will be critical for the next student body president to work closely with Chancellor Holden Thorp and Erin Schuettpelz, director of state relations and communications, to voice student tuition concerns to legislators in the fall.
All three candidates on Tuesday’s ballot said they will focus on advocating for affordability — though their methods differ.
A sunset on tuition hikes
Will Leimenstoll said tuition increases are a direct response to the economic downturn, and that the relationship between the state and the University is not yet in danger.
“But I worry that 10 years down the road, the recession will be used as an excuse to permanently change the relationship between the state and the University,” he said.
Leimenstoll said he would propose a sunset clause be added to any future tuition increases to allow for state funding to the University to return to a pre-determined amount when the recession subsides.
Leimenstoll also said he would encourage the student body presidents of other UNC-system schools to mobilize.
“If I need to go to Asheville and talk to the mayor to get them involved, I’ll do it.”
Calvin Lewis Jr. said he will battle tuition hikes with a letter-writing campaign and seminars on how to contact elected officials.
“The student voice is one of the voices that puts elected officials in that position and students must be very vocal and involved in the process,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he would also hold a system-wide tuition rally in September or October.
He said he will maintain the relationships built with state legislators by Student Body President Mary Cooper’s advocacy team.
Cooper said she already plans to work with the incoming administration to provide continuity in these relationships.
Mobilizing student voters
Tim Longest said the current tuition plan is a symptom of the N.C. General Assembly’s privatization of the state’s public universities.
“We must do everything in our power to reverse this trend,” Longest said.
He said students should also make education funding a voting issue in the November elections to send a message to their legislators.
“Ultimately, it will come down to a campaign of political organization around the budget issue,” he said.
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