The Follies

The Follies

Transparency and tuition

There is disturbing news from the UNC Board of Governors this week. The News & Observer reports that several members of the board don’t like the current policy that sets aside a minimum of 25 percent of the revenue raised from every tuition increase for financial aid for low-income students.

It’s a policy aimed at keeping college affordable for struggling families and it is the least the university can do. 

But newly elected board member Fred Eshelman said using some of the money for financial aid is like a hidden tax.  Another board member suggested that the university should at least be transparent and tell families about the policy so they know what they are paying for.

The N&O report didn’t mention that one reason for the need for tuition increases is that the General Assembly passed the biggest budget cuts in the university system’s history in 2011, forcing the cancellation of thousands of classes and the layoffs of hundreds of staff members and faculty.

The board also apparently didn’t discuss the fact that lawmakers made deep cuts to need-based financial aid at the same time. That’s quite a combination—higher tuition and less help for families that can barely afford to send their children to college.

Now Eshelman and his newly elected board members seem uncomfortable with using some of the revenue raised by tuition hikes for student aid.

If the board is really concerned about transparency, they should include a note with the tuition bill that says one of the reasons that tuition is increasing is that the General Assembly slashed funding for the university system.

Eshelman surely knows all about that. He was a major donor to the right-wing groups that ran a barrage of negative ads against incumbent legislators in the 2010 election that resulted in the current legislative majority assuming control of the House and Senate.

Those would be the same legislators that elected Eshelman and fellow student-aid-questioning colleagues to the Board of Governors last year.

AP classes for kids who can afford them

The Salisbury Post reports that grants to the local school system allowed many low-income students to take Advanced Placement exams in the last school year.

That’s good news for the students able to benefit from the grants but it raises some troubling issues.

The story says that students are required to take the exams if they take the AP class. The test costs $87, which the students must pay unless there are grant funds available.

An official with the Rowan-Salisbury School system says the requirement to take the test and its cost affects the ability of some students to take the classes.  Something is terribly wrong here if that is the case.

There are plenty of families who would have a hard time coming up with $87 for every advanced class their child was eligible to take in high school.

Grants are fine, but should we really be relying on charity to allow low-income kids the access to same education in our public schools that middle class and wealthy students get?

Brubaker hurry through revolving door

Former Rep. Harold Brubaker keeps trying to put the best face on his decision to resign from the House six months before the end of his term so he is eligible to cash in and register as a lobbyist when the General Assembly convenes in January of next year.

State law mandates a six-month cooling off period before legislators can lobby their former colleagues. Brubaker resigned to get around it, though that’s not how he puts it of course.

Local Republican officials recently selected Allen McNeill, a former deputy sheriff, to serve the rest of Brubaker’s term and to be the Republican candidate for the seat in November.

Brubaker told his local paper that part of the reason he gave up his seat early was to give McNeill more seniority in the House than the first-term legislators who take office in January.

Brubaker said McNeill will be a sophomore in Raleigh if he wins in November and added that “seniority is very important in Raleigh.”

It’s actually not that important at all. Unlike in Congress, how long a member of the General Assembly has served has little, if any impact on his or her leadership posts or committee assignments. 

House Speaker Thom Tillis was elected to his post in just his fourth term in the House and several first-term legislators were named committee chairs this session.

Brubaker’s resignation wasn’t about seniority. It was an effort to avoid any wait before walking through the revolving door.

Measuring the drapes

The Charlotte Business Journal reported this week that House Speaker Thom Tillis and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory “have already begun planning for what a McCrory governorship would look like in tandem with the Republican-controlled General Assembly.”

Sounds they might be getting a little ahead of themselves in Charlotte.