UNC System Leaders OK More Transparency In Tuition Allocation; Students Rally For A Debt-Free Education

By Rachel Nash Posted April 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm

UNC system leaders approved a policy Friday to reveal how tuition dollars are used to provide need-based financial aid to students enrolled in North Carolina’s public universities.

This decision was made as students from across the state rallied outside the Board of Governors meeting for debt-free college education.

Following a policy discussion Thursday, the idea for the tuition disclosure statement was presented during a budget and finance committee meeting. It called for details regarding the use of tuition, by category, for each campus for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year.

The statement seeks to divulge to taxpayers, parents and students how revenue from tuition is allocated. Some universities within the 17-campus system already make full disclosure statements available.

The measure was passed unanimously, but not before a brief debate sparked by Board Member Champion Mitchell.

Mitchell said that he acknowledges the growing need for financial aid but questioned the method of hiking the already high cost of tuition for all students.

UNC campuses have increased average tuition by 55 percent since the 2007-2008 school year, according to the Associated Press.

“We are loading this burden onto middle class students and their parents, and it has got to stop at some point,” Mitchell said.

The majority of funding for need-based financial aid comes from the federal government—more than $1 billion was granted to UNC system students last year. The state was the second largest source, but that has since changed.

Campuses within the UNC System are relying more heavily on “tuition set-aside programs” to provide funding for need-based financial aid—money that comes from tuition revenues.

As of 2014, Campus-Initiated Tuition Increase (CITI), or CITI, has become the largest non-federal source of student aid for undergraduate resident students.

And as campuses depend more on tuition set-aside programs, an increasing number of students are requiring financial assistance.

Almost 60 percent of in-state students received need-based financial aid during the 2012-2013 school year, according to UNC System staff.

“There is a time when you have got to say, ‘Let’s not make the situation any worse. That is all of I am trying to do today.’ I am saying let’s stop adding to this issue,” Mitchell said.

As the Board voted on the tuition disclosure statement, Mitchell proposed an amendment to reduce tuition for in-state students in a new master’s program at UNC and to not give any funding from tuition revenues to need-based aid.

After removing his amendment, Mitchell said it was more of a symbolic gesture to prove his point.

Several board members agreed that a “broader and more universal approach” to finding the balance between tuition allocation and need-based financial aid was appropriate.

Chairman Peter Hans said it was his intention to form a need-based financial aid committee and promised that he would take action in implementing the approved policy change by the end of 2014.

Student Protest for A Debt-Free Education

Outside the Spangler Center where the Board of Governors met, Lana Nye, a UNC student from Claremont, North Carolina, finishing her junior year, protested with about half  a dozen students from the NC Student Power Union.

Their mission was to rally for a debt-free education system. They said the Board of Governors should work to ensure that incoming students graduate without debt by 2020.

As a Covenant Scholar, Nye said she had been able to attend Carolina the past three years through without loans by way of grants, scholarship, and work-study initiatives.

Nye said she was recently told that she no longer qualified for full support as a Covenant Scholar.

“I will be taking out loans for my senior year—loans that I can in no way afford. Never mind the fact that my father just emptied out any sort of savings he had on a used truck because his old one broke down. Never mind the fact that I just signed a lease on an apartment thinking that my tuition would be covered for the school year—because according to UNC, I have money,” Nye said.

The students said that this isn’t the last demonstration and that they will continue their campaign toward a debtfree education system.

New Chancellor Named For School of the Arts

The Board of Governors elected Lindsay Bierman, the current Editor in Chief of Southern Living Magazine, as the next chancellor of NC School of the Arts.

Bierman will assume his new duties August 1, succeeding former Chancellor of UNC, James Moeser, who has served as interim chancellor since last June.

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