The North Carolina NAACP is sounding alarms that a proposal to slash the price of tuition at five public universities could “bankrupt” the schools.
The leading proponent of the idea, state Sen. Tom Apodaca, has called for the UNC system to receive $70 million to cover the cost of lowering tuition at the schools to $500 per semester for North Carolina residents starting in fall 2018.
But at a news conference Tuesday, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, called the plan “an attack on HBCUs.”
That label – historically black colleges and universities – applies to three of the five schools under consideration, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University and Winston-Salem State University. Also proposed for tuition decreases are historically American Indian UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University, which is majority white.
“This group of extremists (supporting the bill) continues to engage in secret attacks on various parts of our community,” Barber said.
Hendersonville Republican Apodaca’s proposal is advancing in the form of Senate Bill 873, also known as the “Access to Affordable College Education Act.”
Arguing the bill has been disguised to sound beneficial to college students, Barber said he would like clarification on whether the $70 million would be guaranteed annually.
“If you drain their money, you bankrupt them,” Barber said. “What do you do when you bankrupt them?”
Barber accused Apodaca of not contacting the African-American community affected by the pending legislation.
“Why is it that Senator Apodaca, who sponsored this, always has all these great ideas for the so-called black community, but he never talks to the black community?” Barber said in a phone interview.
Apodaca was not immediately available for comment. He has said that his proposal aims to give college students low-cost alternatives while increasing enrollment at smaller campuses.