HBCUs Endangered By Tuition-Slashing SB 873
Senate Bill 873 was introduced to lower tuition to $500 for historically black colleges and universities in North Carolina. On the surface this may seem like a step towards affordable education, but there is concern that SB 873 is a budget cut in disguise to eliminate HBCUs. Western Carolina University, UNC Pembroke, Elizabeth City State, Winston-Salem, and Fayetteville State all face massive costs and declining enrollment.
State legislation that would lower tuition at five North Carolina higher ed institutions would cost Western Carolina University about $26 million a year, according to an analysis by Chancellor David Belcher’s office.
“As we understand it, the intent of the bill sponsors is to ensure that lost tuition receipts would be replaced with an appropriation from the state’s general fund,” WCU Chief of Staff Melissa Wargo said. “We have no reason to believe that should the bill pass, they would not follow through on that commitment.”
Members of the HBCU Coalition of Pitt County said at a gathering of about 40 alumni and supporters Tuesday night that doing so would jeopardize the ability of the three HBCUs to keep their doors open. Coalition member Don Ensley, an alumnus of North Carolina Central University, said unlike the state’s predominantly white institutions, HBCUs rely mostly on tuition from families to fund operations. Other institutions draw much of their funding from research grants, donations from wealthy alumni and athletics programs.
“The non-HBCUs have revenue streams a lot of HBCU’s don’t have,” Ensley said.
“What I’m hearing is that they’re trying to dismantle our HBCUs and it should be a concern for everybody, period,” said Shaw University alumna Mildred Council, who is also a member of the Pitt County Board of Education. ”If we don’t have those HBCUs, how can we be educated?”
HBCUs are an integral part of North Carolina history and many family legacies. To pass this bill would mean not only ending opportunities for future generations of college students, but entire family histories that the alumni hold dear to them.