Basnight said people should be charged only what they can afford.
"Where like your income tax schedule that you pay based on your ability to pay, that is the amount you pay -- could be nothing or a lot. I like that," said Sen. Basnight.
The senator's opinions may come into conflict with at least four universities that want tuition increases. Appalachian State wants a 13 percent hike; UNC-Pembroke is seeking a 10-percent hike; Western Carolina is looking for 9 percent, and Winston Salem wants 7 percent.
But Basnight makes it clear that education should not be free.
"At the end of their graduation, and these are just my thoughts, I believe you should give something back over time," said Basnight. "Let's say 10-15 years -- $15-$20 a month to pay back the fine education the people of North Carolina gave you," said Basnight.
"When the president pro-tem makes a statement like that I believe you have to pay attention to it," says UNC Board of Governors member Frank Grainger.
Grainger said Basnight's idea is worth considering.
"At least by allowing people to do this the tuition has an opportunity to move gradually and not all at once," he said.
North Carolina tuition is still a bargain compared to most states. The challenge will be keeping it that way.
Last month the Board of Governors agreed to cap tuition increases for next year at about 10 percent, while administrators figure out how to keep the state's tuition among the nation's lowest.
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