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Publication Status - Published, 07/28/06

The News & Observer

July 28, 2006

Look elsewhere, UNC

Edition: Final
Section: Editorial/Opinion
Page: A16

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Estimated printed pages: 1

Article Text:

I have no objection to the concept of UNC-CH and N.C. State being granted more autonomy by the General Assembly ("UNC-CH gets tips on gaining autonomy," July 27). But if they want to learn lessons from somewhere else, they shouldn't be using Virginia's higher education system as an example.

Your article failed to mention that, without an oversight body akin to UNC's Board of Governors, the "Big 3" public universities in Virginia (UVA, Virginia Tech, and William & Mary) had jacked up their tuition rates so high throughout the 1970s and 1980s that the schools became taxpayer-funded havens for the state's wealthy elite. The problem got so bad that governors and legislators alike began enacting tuition rate freezes, and even an occasional tuition rollback. This is why UVA devised the whole "Commonwealth Chartered Universities and Colleges" scheme in 2004: to take back that tuition-hiking power.

If autonomy is what UNC-CH and NCSU want, they can learn a better lesson by looking away from Virginia and instead turning to Illinois. That state's "Truth in Tuition" law gave universities more political cover to raise their tuition rates, but it also protects students and their families by requiring a guaranteed tuition rate for the first four years a student is enrolled in a state-funded university.

For autonomy to make sense, UNC leaders should have to recognize their purpose is to serve all the taxpayers --not just the wealthy and the powerful.

T. Greg Doucette

The writer is a student at N.C. State University and a native of Virginia Beach, Va.

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