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Bill Would Take Away UNC Tuition Break for N.C. School of Science & Math Students

Posted April 2, 2007
Updated April 3, 2007

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— Two state representatives want to repeal a law that gives students at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham free tuition at the University of North Carolina.

The two sponsors of the bill say it's simply not fair to give only the high school students at the select science and math school a break on their college tuition. Others say it’s an incentive that keeps the state's best and brightest at state colleges.

Chris Qin was one of a select few chosen to attend the school. While he said that he loves the competitive learning environment there, he said the free UNC tuition is attractive to him and his fellow students.

"A lot of the people at the school choose that as their reason for coming to the school,” Qin said.

A reported 82 percent of graduates attend a UNC system school, up from 55 percent before the law took effect. Out of 300 seniors this year, all but six applied to schools within the UNC system.

However, Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, one of the sponsors, said it's not fair to other top students in the state.

"I can't think of the reasons why you would just pick out one the hundreds of high schools for this,” Stam said.

Administrators at the school said that taking the tuition break away from those students would send the wrong message to gifted scholars in the future.

"To take it away would really be a step backward, as far as supporting education,” said Lauren Everhart, communications director at the school. “I think it would really send the wrong message."

Students at the N.C. School of Science and Math already get a high school education valued at up to $25,000 a year at taxpayers’ expense. It's estimated that the program costs the state $2 million a year.

77 Comments

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  • ejss Apr 5, 2007

    Please help me understand how you can determine the intelligence level of the graduates of the school. There are 300 graduates per year..it's not like NCSSM is some powerhouse of a high school. There are far more serious concerns you should consider when thinking about where your taxes are going, seriously.

  • Pirate77 Apr 4, 2007

    There may be numerous reasons why individuals choose not to apply or attend NCSSM. I graduted in the top of my class, held a part-time job, volunteered at a local community agency, was involved in extra-curricular activities and helped take care of a very sick parent, so how is that for responsibility? There are many students and adults alike who did not attend NCSSM and who are probably more intelligent than many of the graduates of the school. People who did not attend this "elite" school are also productive, tax paying citizens.

  • martinee Apr 4, 2007

    I have kids in public school and I see how many taxpayer $$$ are spent on illegal aliens, kids who have no discipline at home, kids whose parents won't even spend 10 minutes reading to them at night. Really, a HUGE amount of resources are devoted to bringing the bottom up to grade level. I am not against this, as these kids really need help. But why does everyone complain about elitism when some money is spent on kids who have demonstrated that they are smart and hard-working? We are actually likely to see a return on our investment here. NCSSM does a good job of making kids aware that they are receiving a top-notch education at taxpayers' expense, and that they need to give back. While at NCSSM I was required to spend 3 hrs/week on workservice for the school taking care of grounds and working in the media center + 3 hrs/week volunteering on a homework hotline. I found the work at NCSSM far more challenging than UNC. NCSSMers really have had to work harder than other smart kids in NC.

  • interestedparty Apr 4, 2007

    As a graduate of NCSSM, I'd like to weigh in. Financial incentives work VERY well on NCSSMers, since the school prevents them from holding paid jobs, requires community service, limits access to merit scholarships, and greatly inhibits saving for college.
    It seems to me that the grant should be a conditional one (as others have proposed); working or teaching in the state for 3-4 years after graduation from UNC would be a fair way to ensure that the original objectives of the grant are fulfilled (keeping NCSSM's talented students in-state), while providing tax-payers with some repayment. Anecdotally, I was a member of NCSSM's last class of pre-grant students, and chose to leave the state for greener pastures (I got money from a VA school) and many of my classmates did likewise. That trend altered drastically the year after we left, however the number of NCSSMers who remain in-state post-college graduation is as of yet, unobservable. All eyes should be on the class of 2008.

  • Apollo Apr 4, 2007

    Well said ejss. On the note of saving up for college, NCSSM students are not allowed to hold jobs as it would interfere with the rigorous study regime they are submitted to. Therefore, they are not able to save up for college like other high schools, and the tuition grant helps to provide a stipend for this. If you take the grant away, then many of the scholarships will be taken by NCSSMers, and will not be available for students from other schools. Then there will be a lot of complaining about those being taken. You can't satisfy everyone, but students of NCSSM have EARNED the tuition grant, whether those who oppose it agree or not. Much applause for implementing the grant this long, whether it stays in place or not.

  • ejss Apr 3, 2007

    The problem lies in your idea of tuition being "handed" to us. As I stated before, and will state again: not only is it difficult to be accepted into this school, it is just as difficult to remain a student at this school for the duration of two years. As for responsibility, how's leaving home at the age of 15, living in a dorm 2 hours away from home, and still maintaining good grades where most of the teachers had doctorates sound? Thank you to whoever came up with the tuition grant idea in the first place, job well done.

  • Pirate77 Apr 3, 2007

    I am against the students who graduate from the NCSSM receiving free tuition to UNC. As expensive as college tuition is today, I think it is ridiculous that because you graduated from a certain high school you receive free tuition at a public university. Like many others have said, there are many intelligent individuals who may have chosen not to attend NCSSM for various reasons. I do not think it is fair to solely provide free tuition to the attendees of NCSSM. College tuition is expensive and only getting more expensive. And if you truly want to teach children responsibility, have them pay for college themselves by taking out loans, saving for college, working part-time jobs. As a college graduate with a Master's Degree who paid for it on her own, you appreciate your degree and your accomplishments much more than if it was just handed to you and you didn't have to pay for it!

  • Red Apr 3, 2007

    jf - So it's elitist for smart kids to go to this school at someone elses expense? But it's not elitist for you to opt out of the public system and pay to send your kids to private school? You pay to have choices, but it's somehow wrong for someone with limited choices taking advantage of an opportunity? I think your problem with the school is that you don't like the fact that you couldn't buy your way in, regardless of your childrens' intelegence. And you somehow feel that you're paying three times to send one kid to school; once in taxes, once in private school and once in additional taxes to cover NCSSM. I'm not trying to be rude, but your logic is contradictory and flawed.

  • martinee Apr 3, 2007

    First, most NCSSM students were at or near the top of their class at their home schools. By going to NCSSM with other top students and doing more challenging work, they're giving up their high class rank & opportunities for many merit scholarships. Many NCSSMers would have been Morehead candidates had they taken the easy road & stayed at their home schools. I know several kids who applied to NCSSM and didn't go because they wanted to stay at their home school and be valedictorian and get those other merit scholarships. The opportunity for free tuition at a UNC school gives bright students one more reason to attend NCSSM.

    Second, the idea is that we are trying to keep these bright students, many of whom will eventually be some of the most productive leaders in the areas of science and technology, in North Carolina. That is good for ALL of us! My husband & are graduated from NCSSM in the '80s, went to UNC, and have been very productive, high tax paying members of society.

  • thinkpositive Apr 3, 2007

    The idea behind the NCSSM, and subsequently the tuition breaks (which incidentily are not the same as scholarships), was to spend taxpayers money in NC for the benefit of all NC citizens. This in fact is what happens when we incentize some or our brightest minds to stay in the state for there first four years of college, which hopefully then allows them to be exposed to NC organizations in both the private and public sector where they can "give back". In most every case, funds spent by the state are given to a "select" demographic group. We spend money all the time for the unmarried with children, or the disabled, or the charged individual who can't afford a lawyer, etc. This school is something to be proud of and is the model for 16 or more other schools like it in the world. It is open for application by all NC students and we should be glad our tax dollars go to something so positive, irregardless if our little ones get to go or not.

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