Former UNC system leaders are joining forces against proposed tuition increases at university campuses.
More than 20 former UNC Board of Governors members have signed a petition calling for the current board to reject increases proposed at many campuses for the fall. The hikes, according to the petition, "will make these institutions inaccessible to many qualified young men and women and breach the moral and constitutional duties of our state to all of our citizens."
The petition was organized by William Johnson, a Lillington attorney, who was chairman of the board in the late 1970s. In an interview Tuesday, Johnson said it's necessary to keep tuition under control.
The UNC system's board will take up the proposed tuition hikes at a meeting on Thursday. A vote is expected in February.
At this week's meeting, campus leaders will make their case for higher tuition. UNC-Chapel Hill, for example, wants to charge students an extra $2,800 during the next five years. The proposal would raise undergraduate tuition for North Carolina residents next year by $800, or 15.6 percent, bringing annual tuition and fees to $7,795 in 2012-13. That does not include costs for room, food and books.
Campus leaders have argued that quality is slipping in the face of double-digit percentage state budget cuts. They say an increase is needed to be able to restore course sections and academic offerings lost in the budget reductions.
This week's debate is likely to be heated, as the board considers the proposals and students show up to protest. And now, with former board members weighing in, there is political pressure on the board to keep costs low in a difficult economy.
The petition is also meant to push the legislature and calls on citizens to contact their representatives. It cites North Carolina's constitutional provision that calls for free higher education for the people "as far as practicable."
"We cannot responsibly shift an increasing burden in the form of ever-rising tuition and fee charges on to the students and their parents," the petition said.
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