UNC System Students to Lobby February 20

Student voices will be heard at the General Assembly Building in Raleigh on Feb. 20 when students and other representatives gather for Student Lobby Day at the state capital to discuss “higher education” issues.

“This day can have as great of an impact as the number of students that attend,” said David Chesley, UNC Association of Student Governments (ASG) vice president for legislative affairs. “By going straight to the General Assembly, action will be taken and has already begun.”

A six-percent salary increase, need-based financial aid and a student vote on the UNC Board of Governors are the topics to be discussed.

R. Andrew Payne, the ASG president, reported that competitive salaries are the single most important factors in recruiting and retaining the university’s most valuable resource–an excellent faculty.

The ASG provided the following information in a packet of material entitled “Students Day at the Capital: Making Higher Education A Top Priority.”

After comparing salaries and compensations to other peers in the nation, the Board of Governors found that faculty salaries at UNC institutions should be in the top 20 percent of the nation if the system is to remain competitive.

But data from the American Association of University Professors shows that over $41 million will be needed to meet this goal.

The ASG is seeking to resolve this issue by supporting the Board of Governors request for a six-percent increase in academic salaries. The salary increase will occur over the next two years.

Payne also said that the system continues to lag behind in finding necessary financial aid for instate students.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reported that 26 percent of state grant aid is targeted to low income families in N.C., compared to 106 percent in other states.

Students will provide more than $16 million–through tuition increases–to need- based financial aid programs during the next two years.

The ASG supports the Board of Governors initiative to fund a system-wide grant program. The program calls for contributing $26 million in 2001-2002 and $20 million in 2002-2003.

The bulk of funding for higher education comes from two sources: taxpayers and students. Although taxpayers are represented on the Board of Governors through appointees, students have no voice on the board.

In 1999, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird introduced a bill calling for a student vote, but Senate Democratic leaders opposed the bill and allowed it to die. Opponents said they did not want the student member to cast a tie-breaking vote. They also said the Board was too large and that a student wouldn’t be able to serve long enough to learn the “ins and outs.”

Payne is a member of the Board of Governors by virtue of his office. He represents the 162,000 students in the UNC system. He said he has consistently presented significant perspectives on action and decisions made by the Board.

The ASG is pushing for the General Assembly to adopt legislation allowing Payne to become a voting member of the Board.

Students interested in participating in Student Day at the Capital should meet at the the first floor of the University Center at 6:30 a.m., Feb. 20. A free breakfast will be provided courtesy of Student Affairs.

Buses will begin loading in front of the UC at 6:45, and will leave at 7:00. WCU buses are expected to arrive at the N.C. Legislative Building at noon.

A rally, led by WCU’s David Chesley, will be held at 12:30 at the opposite side of the N.C. Legislative Building.

WCU Student Body President Jonathan Rowe will speak on the proposed six-percent faculty salary increase.

A free lunch with members of the state legislature is at 1:00 p.m. The General Assembly goes into full session at 2:00.

Legislators and students will gather for an ice cream social at 3:00, before WCU buses leave to return to campus.