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All 16 campuses in the North Carolina’s university system want to raise tuition and fees over the next two years.

The combined increases for tuition and fees, if approved, would range from 2 to 7 percent increases for in-state students, and up to 6 percent for out-of-state students for the school year beginning this fall. Additional increases are also being proposed for 2016-17.

At the top end of the scale, the UNC School of the Arts wants to charge students $8,499 and  N.C. State University would like to charge in-state students $8,407 in 2015-16. On the lower end, Elizabeth City State University asked for increases that would bring tuition and fees to $4,657.

A finance and budget committee of the UNC Board of Governors members heard about the requested increases on Thursday. The full 32-member board, all of whom were appointed by Republican state leaders, will meet once more to discuss the tuition increases before a Feb. 27 vote on the increases.

The figures looked at Thursday did not include room and board estimates.

North Carolina’s university tuition rates continue to be lower than what in-state tuition costs at many of its peers, according to information presented at the meeting by university system staff.

But the state also is obligated through the state Constitutions to have higher education costs “as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”

With significant cuts to the UNC system during the Recession (including $414 million for the 2011-13 biennium), students and their parents are paying a higher share of their education costs while levels of state support has dropped, according to a 2013 report by non-partisan legislative staff.

The report found that students paid $699 more for their education in 2013 than they did in 2007, while state support has dropped by $2,516 during that same time period.

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Commentary

Valentine’s Day 2015, February 14, will be especially memorable this year. This is from the good fols at the NAACP and HKonJ coalition:

On this Valentine’s Day, bring your sweetheart to Raleigh and JOIN THE LARGEST LOVE AND JUSTICE MOVEMENT SINCE SELMA!

We will show our LOVE for JUSTICE! We LOVE justice in Education; We LOVE Economic Sustainability, We LOVE Workers and Workers’ Rights and Livable Wages; We LOVE Health Care For All, Medicaid Expansion: We LOVE our Environment; We LOVE Equal Protection Under the Law, without regard to creed, race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation; We LOVE Voting Rights For All; We LOVE criminal justice.

We LOVE the most vulnerable within our State and Nation; We LOVE the power and beauty of diversity within our State and Nation; We LOVE our neighbors; WE ARE IN THIS LOVE TOGETHER! And We are determined to go “FORWARD TOGETHER, NOT ONE STEP BACK!”

On February 14, 2015, we will gather at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Raleigh. The march will begin at 10:00 a.m. after which we will begin the mass people’s assembly on the doorstep of the State Capitol. Read More

News

Steven LaRoque, the former Kinston state lawmaker facing federal charges of stealing from two federally-funded non-profits he ran, will find out this week if a judge agrees the dozen criminal charges in the case should be thrown out.

LaRoque-PC

Steven LaRoque, at a 2011 press conference.

A pre-trial motions hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow at the federal courthouse in Greenville, will be a sealed hearing and closed to the public, according to an order filed by Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard.

LaRoque’s trial – his second, after the first ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct — is scheduled to begin on Feb. 2.

The Kinston Republican is accused of taking $300,000 for his personal use from an economic development group he ran that was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural business lending program. LaRoque is also facing accusations that, instead of funding struggling businesses to spur economic growth, he used federal money to offer loans to personal associates and political allies, and then took money to fund his campaign and buy jewelry, replica Faberge eggs and a Greenville ice skating rink.

The federal investigation began shortly after N.C. Policy Watch published a 2011 investigation into LaRoque’s management of the federally-funded non-profits.

LaRoque, a former member of House Republican leadership team, has maintained he is innocent of criminal wrongdoing, and that the money in question was owed to him.

Howard wrote in his Jan. 6 order (scroll down or click here to read) that he is sealing the hearing and closing it to the public in order to hear confidential information that may come up in response to a motion LaRoque filed seeking information about the grand jury that indicted him.

Grand jury proceedings are, by design, secret and details about the inner workings of the groups are very rarely released to the public.

“This hearing will be sealed due to the potential for disclosure of grand jury documents or other materials,” Howard wrote.

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Commentary

The Daily Beast reported yesterday on the fact that, despite America’s rapidly growing racial and ethnic diversity, the United States Congress remains an overwhelming white, male and Christian-dominated institution.

“The breakdown of the 114th Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and 92 percent Christian….It’s impossible to make the claim that our Congress accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. And it’s not missing by a little but a lot. If Congress accurately reflected our nation on the basis of race, about 63 percent would be white, not 80 percent. Blacks would hold about 13 percent of the seats and Latinos 17 percent.”

Sadly, a look at the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives reveals a striking similar pattern.

In the North Carolina general population, less than one in three individuals is a non-Hispanic white male — around 32%. In state government, however, white men continue to monopolize government leadership positions. In the General Assembly, a quick count shows that more than 64% of the lawmakers (109 out of 170) are non-Hispanic white men. Minorities, who make up more than 35% of the state’s population inhabit just 20% of the seats in General Assembly. And all of those minority members are African American. Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are completely unrepresented despite making up as much as 13% of the population.

Interestingly, white women are also badly underrepresented in the General Assembly. Despite making up around a third of the population, they fill just 15.2% of the seats on Jones Street. Obviously, they fare better in the Council of State — filling five of nine positions. But, of course, the fact that the other four are filled by white men serves to highlight that racial diversity amongst statewide elected officials is essentially non-existent.

As for religion, the Daily Beast notes that: Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Voters in Mecklenburg, Guilford, and Rockingham counties each rejected a ballot initiative to increase its local sales tax by one-quarter cent. Under these referendums, consumers would have paid 25 cents in additional sales tax per $100 spent on goods and services subject to sales tax. The sales tax increase was expected to generate around $32 million for Mecklenburg County, $14 million for Guilford County, and $1.5 million for Rockingham County in additional local revenue each year.

This rejection of a sales tax increase highlights the tenuous reality of funding for public education in North Carolina. Last year, state lawmakers passed a tax plan that significantly reduced revenue available for public schools and other important public services. The tax plan has proven to be more costly than state policymakers’ initial estimate and the implications of this self-imposed revenue crisis will reverberate across the state in the years ahead. Meanwhile, some local governments are bracing for the revenue losses associated with the elimination of the local privilege license tax, which goes into effect next July.

Of the three counties rejecting a proposed sales tax increase, Mecklenburg County has experienced significant growth in its student population in recent years. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is the second largest, and one of the fastest growing school systems in the state. For the most recent 2013-14 school year, more than 144,000 students were enrolled in CMS, with nearly 10,000 additional students entering CMS classrooms since 2008. Guilford County has experienced modest growth in its student population (1,326 additional students) while the student population for Rockingham County has declined (990 fewer students) since 2008. Read More