This column is part of a series written by seniors from the pilot senior seminar on American citizenship. The class is led by its students, whose interests and experiences are as diverse as their areas of study. These columns are their lessons.
During tuition discussions at the UNC-system Board of Governors meeting this month, a student spoke of the jobs she holds to pay tuition, and a board member responded that he too had worked his way through UNC. I was impressed, but I desperately wished I could point out that his comparison to today’s students no longer holds.
While helping Student Body President Mary Cooper present her tuition plan to the UNC Board of Trustees this fall, I often vented my frustrations to my dad, a 1980 UNC graduate.
Though many trustees sympathized with students — because, they proudly proclaimed, they also worked their way through college — I had a hunch they were comparing apples and oranges. After some back-of-the-envelope calculations, my dad found why the trustees’ declarations rang false.
My dad is a hippie who attended seven colleges in eight years, and by 1976, he was playing the banjo in a bluegrass band, working in a furniture factory in Mt. Airy and attending Surry Community College. When he left the factory and transferred to UNC, he was making $2.45 an hour. (And though my dad wandered around Alaska and lived in a truck for a while, he ended up at Wharton, so I trust his numbers.)