Carolinian – Opinions
Issue: 2/10/03

Taxes or Tuition?
By Jason M. Crawford


This is the most common experience of a conservative on campus. We have to learn to live with it. It is one of the first things I tell students coming to me to question the way they’ve been taught, and wanting to think outside the boundaries of political correctness. I tell them not just prepare to be misunderstood by professors, administrators, and students alike – they have to just expect it. A perfect example of this happened recently when a few of us voiced concerns over Student Government’s trip to the capitol this week.

This trip was initially understood as simply a field trip that would offer student government delegates the opportunity to meet legislators, watch the General Assembly in action, and a get a close-up view of elected representatives that do much of what we do, but on a much, much larger scale. However, when Associated Student Government president John Ducote visited us to talk about the trip, some of us began to suspect that more was being asked of us than had been previously disclosed. The Board of Governors, Ducote explained, planned a large luncheon where the issue of tuition hikes would take center stage. And of course the luncheon would by no means be a discussion, debate, or roundtable – the position and the proposed solution would be already spoon-fed to us.

No one I know wants to pay more for school. For those of us who work part-time jobs and receive little financial aid, paying for school is tough – too tough. The difference between us and most other students on this issue is not whether there is a problem but how that problem should be solved. For the Board of Governors and many who went to Raleigh this past Tuesday, the solution is to squeeze more dollars out of state legislators so that the UNC system doesn’t have to feel any pinch from North Carolina’s current budget crisis. Ducote and others in leadership in our own SGA view this as the only alternative towards controlling student costs. But those that questioned the wisdom or the effectiveness of this strategy were confused with those wanting higher tuition, a perception that could not be farther from the truth.

Students that want to manage the costs involved with their education need to start looking in their own backyards first before they look to Raleigh’s. Your total bill every semester can speak volumes on this point. Tuition is actually only a portion of what students actually pay; what makes it overwhelming is the myriad of fees that are piled on. Some of these fees are determined by the UNC system, but others are managed right here in Greensboro. As most of us learned in high school, fees or taxes are what you pay in exchange for services. So if you can learn to live with fewer services, you don’t have to pay as much to the IRS, or in our case, the university.

But as simple as this logic sounds to average people, it’s heresy to those in the education industry. The UNC system’s collective goal is to suck as much money out of the taxpayers as possible. The idea of cutting spending or doing with less, which is what you or I do with our own money, isn’t the way the game is played by the UNC system.

All of us can live without a few services in order to pay less for our education. It’s a brighter idea than jumping on a bus to yell at legislators. The Office of Student Life is ripe for this kind of scrutiny: they waste money on free food for commuter students and turn out plastic water bottles for no one in particular. Departments within the university have budgets that are bloated too, as they pay enormous speakers’ fees to bring screwballs to the campus that no one has taken seriously since the 1960’s. If student government is really serious about lowering our bill, they should explore some of these avenues and stop planning expensive trips to Raleigh. Then things might get easier for students, and it doesn’t have to be at the expense of NC taxpayers.