UNC President Molly Broad’s latest proposal to win money for the University of North Carolina garnered opposition from some unlikely opponents last week, with those generally supportive of Broad’s quests offering perhaps the harshest criticism. Even strong opponents, however, remain stalwart in their demands that the legislature provide more money for N.C. universities.
Sen. Howard Lee, Co-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education/Higher Education, said that the state should accept “full responsibility” and would like for the General Assembly to approve a bond measure this summer.
“Students should not and ideally would not be asked to pay for bricks and mortar,” Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, told Clarion Call. “My preference is that the General Assembly carry the full responsibility for the $700 million in capital expenditures proposed by President Broad.”
“I’ve never heard a poor person recommend changing tuition,” former UNC-system president C.D. Spangler told The News and Observer of Raleigh.
Early last week, the Raleigh-based, liberal-leaning Common Sense Foundation issued a report saying that Broad’s plan would hurt poor families and stifle diversity.
“The Board of Governors should urge the State to raise needed money rather than asking students to pay more whenever university finances are tight,” the report reads. “Many North Carolinians, including university students and their families, have suffered as a result of Hurricane Floyd. A tuition increase will simply create more hardship for students in eastern N.C.”
Common Sense recommended eliminating tuition grants for N.C. students who attend private colleges as a way to raise money for the state’s public universities. Other opponents of the plan questioned Broad’s claim that a huge injection of funds was needed to meet a rapidly growing enrollment.
“We are not in a crisis situation,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Watauga, “We don’t know if 50,000 people are going to go to the universities,” she added, referring to approximations that UNC’s total enrollment will increase by 50,500 in the next decade.
“Fees are already very high and there’s not as much scrutiny of fees as there should be,” Foxx said. “We’ve got a couple of schools where the fees are as high as tuition.”
Former legislator and lawyer Skip Stam agreed. He said that 50,000 is an arbitrary number, adding that the idea of having a current student pay for capital construction that won’t be complete until after that student leaves was “bizarre.”
The proposal should make for an exciting short session of the General Assembly this spring, when legislators reconvene to discuss UNC’s funding needs. “Maybe some of that could have been avoided with university management on its toes,” said Rep. John Garwood, R-Wilkes. “At some point we’ve got to address it or we’re going to get nowhere.”
“All [Broad’s proposal] does is get them off the hook on establishing priorities,” said Foxx. “Every once in a while I get cynical and a proposal like this makes me wonder if it’s out there so strong opposition will steer people in the other direction.”