Two Sides to the Story

Tuition increases at public universities are a big issue, at least in the populist state of North Carolina. A front-page story in the state’s largest paper today describes University of North Carolina students’ plans to march on the UNC Board of Governors meeting as it considers a 9 percent tuition hike.

In terms of policy, I tend to agree with the kids. The increase, while smaller than the trial balloons that have been launched since November, still outstrips (for the second time in three years) the 6.5 percent annual limit that the university set in place a few years ago. Raising tuition allows the administration to delay facing the university’s structural problems, and it’s not fair to students who have planned their payments with more modest increases in mind.

But heck! There’s another side to the story. North Carolina taxpayers, not the students, are paying most of these students’ tuition — on average, nearly $13,000 per student. Yes, a lot of it is misspent (due to those aforementioned structural problems) but still students are getting a bonanza. And, as we know, all too many of them are blowing it on “beer and circus.”

George Bernard Shaw said that youth is wasted on the young. Sometimes education is, too.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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