By Spencer Schneier, Staff Writer
Published in print Jan 21, 2015
Many students at UNCG and across North Carolina are frustrated with the rising costs of higher education, and tend to place the blame on politicians and the UNC system.
Though students feel their frustration is warranted, many are confused by the operations and policymaking of UNC system executives and N.C. General Assembly politicians.
UNC-Greensboro Director of Strategic Initiatives Mike Tarrant works with members of the N.C. General Assembly and the UNC system, and he has personal experience working in the office of the UNC system.
Tarrant stressed, “There are a lot of factors at play, other than it being a policy issue that raises tuition.”
The UNC system is a large institution with different branches, including the president, board of governors and various other departments that cover things like finances and communications.
The UNC system power players, as explained by Tarrant, are the board of governors, who make many important decisions that impact students statewide, such as approving tuition and fee rates.
The N.C. General Assembly selects the UNC board of governors.
The board of governors is most similar to a legislative branch, as they vote on important issues and form subcommittees in which they can focus on important topics.
One example of a subcommittee is the Budget and Finance Committee, which is overseen by Chair W. Edwin McMahan.
The General Assembly selects these members from the Select Committee on the UNC board of governors, which per the General Assembly website, has not named its members for this session.
The state legislature has an impact of its own on higher education, with subcommittees like the Education/Higher Education Senate Standing Committee, which is co-chaired by Sen. Dan Soucek (Rep.) and Sen. Jerry Tillman (Rep.).
Tarrant noted the impact that policymakers have does not always make front-page headlines, but that occasionally important legislation passes through the General Assembly in regard to college students.
A few examples he presented, included a law that allowed firearms to be kept in vehicles on college campuses, and another that called for the end of prohibition on college campuses.
These political factors are not the only ones that impact UNCG students and their tuition on a regular basis, as there are many economic factors in play as well.
The Great Recession of the last decade damaged the U.S. economy and did no favors for rising tuition and fee policies.
North Carolina is still one of the cheaper states to go to college in, based on data from the College Board website.
In 2004-2005, it cost $3,566 in tuition and fees to attend a public four-year university in North Carolina for an in-state student; however, by the 2014-2015 academic year, this number rose to $6,677.
While that seems like a dramatic increase, it is still affordable when compared to a state such as Washington. In Washington, the tuition and fees for an in-state four-year student at a public university in 2004-2005 cost $4,914, which raised to $10,846 by 2014-2015.
While this does not excuse the rise in cost, it does help to explain that this is part of a larger trend. The policymakers have to weather stormy waters.
However, students, like members of the N.C. Student Power Union, are still frustrated.
Last semester, The Carolinian covered a protest the organization hosted where Bulent Beduz, a former teacher at UNCG who received his master’s degree from the institution, told the crowd, “When I started university in 1964, an out-of-state student paid $247 for tuition and fees. The cost of education today is outrageous.”
“University has ceased to be university,” he said, “It is now a corporation. You the students are the cash cows. Apathy will further corporation mentality.”
Tarrant stressed that for those involved, their goals and intentions are only to further the university system and make it a positive influence in North Carolina.
“My experience has been, if you’re involved in the university system in one form or another, either as a staff member or general administration, or if you’re on the board of governors— if you’ve raised your hand and volunteered to serve in either capacity, it’s because you believe in the ability of higher education to change lives in this state,” he said about the motives of the UNC system’s actors.
The UNC system recently announced there would be a shift in leadership from current president, Tom Ross.
“The University of North Carolina board of governors,” the official statement says, “has decided to begin the process of leadership transition. The board believes President Ross has served with distinction, that his performance has been exemplary and that he has devoted his full energy, intellect and passion to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of his office.”
“This decision,” the statement continues, “has nothing to do with President Ross’ performance or ability to continue in the office. The board respects President Ross and greatly appreciates his service to the University and to the State of North Carolina.”
The full transcript of the interview with Mike Tarrant is available on The Carolinian’s website, carolinianuncg.com.