Tuition increase punishes community college students

Published 7:26 am Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just over a year ago, two Democratic candidates for governor were proclaiming that they would make community college tuition free.
Then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and then-State Treasurer Richard Moore touted their free-tuition plan as an economic and educational stimulus.
Moore, in particular, had a detailed plan for where he would find the money to cover the tuition expense. Both said the plan was attainable and would benefit the state in many ways.
North Carolina politicians count on people having short memories regarding campaign promises and “temporary” taxes.
Instead of making community college tuition free, the General Assembly has raised tuition, nearly doubling the charge for some classes. The computer class I’m taking at Wilson Community College cost me $65, not counting the textbook. This fall, the same class will cost $120.
By some calculations, that’s still a bargain, but it’s a heckuva lot more than the current cost, and it will be a real hardship for some people struggling to update their job skills.
The tuition increase is in effect even though the General Assembly has not passed a 2009-2010 budget. The increase is part of the continuation budget, passed by legislators to carry the state until a full budget can be adopted.
The chances of the final budget (whenever it comes) not including the community college tuition increase is probably almost nil. Legislators aren’t going to want to refund money to students who have paid the higher tuition already.
Politicians give lip service to the notion that education is a top priority in the state.
To prove their dedication to education, they approve expensive, useless and duplicative university buildings and programs; they mandate reduced class sizes, resulting in added costs for facilities borne by local school districts; they tout “cutting-edge” changes in curriculum (remember the Basic Education Plan?) that are abandoned after a few ineffective years; they mandate tests; they mandate specific teachings (such as a class dedicated to the Constitution); they regulate student behavior; they demand the collection of a variety of warehoused statistics.
But when it comes to an issue that could have a real impact on people’s lives and on the economy — improving job skills through continuing education at community colleges — legislators see only a means of increasing state revenues from those North Carolinians least able to pay.
Meanwhile, we’ll spend $25 million on a pier.