HBCU students oppose tuition plan

Posted May 31, 2016

— African-American lawmakers joined with the state NAACP and student organizers Tuesday to speak out against Senate Bill 873.

The proposal, titled the "Access to Affordable College Education Act," would slash tuition to $500 per semester for in-state students at five campuses in the University of North Carolina system: Fayetteville State University, Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University, Western Carolina University and UNC-Pembroke. Out-of-state students would pay $2,500 a semester.

The first three are historically black colleges and universities, and the last was created to serve Native Americans in eastern North Carolina.

Sponsor Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said those five campuses struggle every year to enroll enough students. The change, he said, would help them draw in more students while providing a more affordable college education to lower-income students.

Apodaca said the state would provide additional funding – about $61 million in the first year – to make up for the tuition dollars those schools would lose.

Student NAACP organizer Tyler Swanson questioned that pledge at Tuesday's news conference.

"What happens to the other years when you guys make the budget and there's no room for this?" Swanson asked. "What's going to happen to our institutions?"

North Carolina A&T State University political science student Delaney Vandergrift said HBCU students will organize to fight the proposal.

"Considering that the General Assembly and the Board of Governors are not representative of HBCUs, I understand that you all may not see the value in our institutions. But we do," she said. "Students, alumni, the entire country knows that HBCUs hold value."

NAACP President Rev. William Barber said HBCUs, which are open to students of any race, serve proportionally more low-income and first-generation students than other schools. He accused lawmakers of wanting to do away with the schools altogether.

"You cannot claim this bill is about affordability when it actually underdevelops and drains money from historically black colleges and universities and minority universities, which have already been underfunded for years," Barber said.

"This bill attacks people of color directly. The goal is clear: disperse these centers of cultural, intellectual and political power, and disrupt the mission of HBCUs by bankrupting them," Barber continued.

The legislation has already passed the Senate's education and budget committees, but it was re-referred by Apodaca to his own Rules Committee after university leaders voiced concerns about the bill.


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  • Bo Pritchard Jun 1, 2016
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    I think I understand the "Rev" Barber.
    Raise tuition = "you're a racist". Lower tuition = "you're a racist".
    If you're a member of the party he doesn't approve of the formula is quite simple.

  • Roger Connor Jun 1, 2016
    user avatar

    A significant percentage of people with qualifications to attend college, are prevented from doing so by their financial condition. At the same time, due to the increased financial costs involved in the operation of a college, the smaller colleges are 1) having a hard time competing because they are perceived as being 3rd or 4th rate institutions, 2) which perception also impacts the quality of professors willing to teach there, 3) cannot enroll enough students to cover costs, and 4) the HBCUs as the article calls them, have the additional problem of antagonizing the percentage of the white population which would be willing to go there with their attitude. This is really evident when you compare them to the traditionally white small independent colleges (Campbell and Lees McCray to name two) in the nation.

  • Crystal Wallace May 31, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    No, because most schools have ALWAYS been historically white. That's a tired, simple argument that I wish people would drop. HBCUs provide a community and support for Black students that they can't always get at PWIs (Predominately White Institutions).

    If the state could guarantee the schools would receive the same funding moving forward, that would be wonderful. But it's not sustainable and it's not going to happen. Ultimately, those schools would fail with the tuition decrease because they will not have the funding needed to support their administrative costs, much less programs that could improve the environment for their students. Not only that, but students and alumni from those schools feel, rightly so, that their schools will be looked at as second-rate institutions of they are the ONLY ones to have their tuition slashed.

  • Katie Miller May 31, 2016
    user avatar

    Why not just cut the tuition in 1/2? If the state is willing to make sure funding remains the same, then it is a good way to get more students to enroll and attend the schools. We need to move past the HBCU status. Do we call other colleges Historicall White Colleges?

  • Anne Havisham May 31, 2016
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    HBCU= Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

  • Crystal Wallace May 31, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    It stands for "Historically Black Colleges and Universities." Those universities, with the exception of Pembroke, were established to provide a higher education community for Black Americans. By forcing those schools to reduce their tuition by such a drastic amount, they are essentially taking money away from them. I completely agree that it doesn't matter what the GA says right now... the budgets, as we all know, are going to change every year and, every year, those schools will receive fewer funds from the state to cover the difference that they'll lose in this tuition decrease (if it happens).

  • Bubba Smith May 31, 2016
    user avatar

    I am sorry -- what does HBCU stand for? I am not familiar with that school... and it doesn't appear to be one of the 5 listed.