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The Pope Center for Higher Education is out with a new article in which it laments the fact that student loan debt and loan defaults are both up in North Carolina.  This is obviously not an unimportant problem and so good for them for raising it.

As one might have suspected, however, the group’s conclusion as to why this is so and what ought to be done about it are mostly the usual market fundamentalist gibberish.

According to the Pope people, too many North Carolinians go to college — especially minority students who go to HBCU’s. The “solution,” therefore, is for all those kids who are trying to better themselves to cut it out. Better to get a job in retail or fast food and get on with life as a cog in the new post-industrial North Carolina.

Uh, earth to Pope people: Your article never mentions the word “tuition” except to say that it’s generally lower in HBCU’s.  In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been skyrocketing in the UNC system in recent years as conservatives have repeatedly slashed the state’s commitment to higher education.

A critical and obvious part of the solution to the problem of rising student debt — notwithstanding the Pope group’s denials — is to lower tuition and the other costs associated with higher education.  That an article would purport to discuss the problem of rising student debt without even paying lip service to the rapidly rising cost of attending college (or for that matter, the proliferation of predatory, for-profit colleges) is a testament to the amazingly powerful blinders with which the ideologues on Right Wing Avenue view the world and dispense their toxic policy prescriptions.

Commentary

In case you missed it earlier today, be sure to check out this new and sobering release from the Justice Center on the sorry state of North Carolina’s investment in higher education:

North Carolina’s spending on higher education cut deeply since 2008
Shortchanging public universities and colleges reduces access to higher education, hurts economy

RALEIGH (May 13, 2015) — Even as most states have begun to restore funding for higher education that was cut during the recession, North Carolina has continued to cut funding for public universities, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As a result, tuitions have risen dramatically and the quality of education here has suffered, which will make it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce.

“Smart investments in public colleges and universities will help to strengthen North Carolina’s economy,” said Cedric Johnson of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Communities with highly educated residents attract employers who pay competitive wages. Their employees then spend money in their community, boosting the economy of the entire area. That’s what North Carolina needs as our economy continues to recover from the damaging Great Recession.”

Nationwide, states are spending 20 percent less per student on higher education than they did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. With such deep cuts in higher education investment, colleges and universities have had to raise tuition, cut spending, or both. As a result, tuition at four-year public colleges has grown nationally by 29 percent since the 2007-08 school year.

For North Carolina, costly tax cuts in recent years have hindered the state’s ability to invest in what works, such as its well-regarded public university system. State funding for higher education has been cut by more than 20 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, according to the new report. Meanwhile, the average tuition at a public, four-year college increased by 36 percent during this period. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Senate Bill 20 passed another hurdle this morning, moving out of House Finance and to the floor for a full vote.  As I recently highlighted, state lawmakers are pursing tax changes that would further shift responsibility for paying for public investments and services to low- and middle-income taxpayers and away from the wealthy and profitable corporations.

Senate Bill 20 includes a provision that would no longer allow taxpayers to deduct expenses for tuition and related expenses such as course-related books, supplies, and equipment. The federal tax code includes this deduction, but state lawmakers are proposing that the deduction be done away with.

Eliminating this deduction would come at a time when North Carolina students and families have seen a steady increase in the cost of a college education. And this trend will likely continue, as another round of tuition increases look to be on the horizon for students attending public universities in the state. Meanwhile, state funding for need-based financial aid has not increased in recent years, meaning students likely have to incur increasing amounts of student loan debt. Read More

News

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.

Read More

Uncategorized

North Carolina’s public universities can’t keep turning to tuition revenues to fund need-based aid for lower-income students, a move could lessen how much aid is available for coming classes and lead some to take on more student loans.

The university system’s Board of Governors unanimously passed a four-year tuition proposal Friday that puts a 15 percent cap on how much tuition money schools can use for need-based aid to help lower-income students.

The need-based aid proposal also freezes the dollar amount that goes to need-based aid at five campuses that are at or exceed the 15 percent mark – Elizabeth City State University ($470,584), Fayetteville State University ($328,869), N.C. State University ($7.3 million)and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ($19.1 million) and Winston Salem-State University ($190,089). Read More