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Students fight tuition hikes

Published Feb 11, 2012 10:10 AM

On Feb. 10, students from across the University of North Carolina system will mobilize in Chapel Hill to protest unprecedented tuition hikes planned for the 17 statewide institutions and to demand more of a voice at UNC Board of Governors meetings.

The board will be voting on tuition and fee increases, some exceeding 10 percent to 15 percent, for in-state students per year. The proposed hike would mean an increase in costs of more than 40 percent over the next four years for students at some campuses. Student organizers have highlighted how undemocratic this process has been, with administrators belittling and ignoring input from the few student representatives allowed in the meetings.

Because the hikes will impact many students’ ability to access higher education, and lead to students enrolling without being able to predict how much debt they will accumulate before graduating, the students plan to pack the boardrooms and demand a seat at the table. Allied organizations, including the UNC Chapel Hill Employee Forum and the North Carolina NAACP, have spoken in support of the students’ demands.

With student debt totaling over $1 trillion, eclipsing the total credit card debt in the United States, and the unemployment rate for recent college graduates at 9.1 percent, the average North Carolina student graduates with over $20,000 in student loan debt, with few prospects for paying it off.

Tuition has already gone up by more than 150 percent in the past 10 years at some UNC schools. Meanwhile, state and federal budgets prioritize funding imperialist wars and bailing out banks and corporations, with students and workers having to pay the balance. Funding for public education across the country, from elementary schools to universities, is on the chopping block, with programs like the Pell Grant being threatened and financial aid continually being cut.

Privatizing the face of public universities in the UNC system comes at the risk of decreasing the enrollment of students of color and threatens funding for departments and university centers that serve oppressed students.

The NC Defend Education Coalition has begun a grassroots fundraising effort to fund transportation to Chapel Hill for the Board of Governors meeting. Organizers expect students from across the state to meet early that morning and take to the streets.

The Board of Governors panders to corporate interests at the expense of students and workers. Board members have ties to companies with known workers’ rights violations, say activists. Organizers are particularly outraged that the board is controlled by the wealthy and has no voting student representatives.

The writer is a youth activist in Raleigh- FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together).