NAACP: Lawmakers trying to bankrupt historically black North Carolina schools

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Critics fear bill to lower tuition could hurt historically black universities.

The North Carolina NAACP said Tuesday that a bill in the state Senate that would force five public colleges and universities to cut tuition is just an attempt to put historically black schools out of business.

Senate Bill 873 would drop tuition to $500 starting in 2018 at Western Carolina, UNC Pembroke, Winston-Salem State, Elizabeth City State, and Fayetteville State.

It cleared a senate committee last week after lawmakers added that the state will spend $70 million to help the universities cover the revenue loss.

Supporters say the bill would attract more students to colleges struggling with enrollment and finances, but critics argue it will lead to the ultimate demise of historically black schools like Winston-Salem State, Elizabeth City State, and Fayetteville State.

"This bill attacks people of color directly. The goal is clear: disperse these centers of cultural, intellectual, and political power, and disrupt the mission of HBCUs by bankrupting them," said North Carolina NAACP President Reverend William Barber.

READ THE FULL TEXT OF SENATE BILL 873 (.PDF)

College sophomore Delaney Vandergrift feels at home at North Carolina A&T State University, where she plays volleyball and majors in political science.

But she worries the future of the historically black college and university could be in danger if a new Senate proposal cutting tuition gets approval.

"In high school I dealt with a lot of micro-aggressions and like, anti-black racism, and I knew that I wouldn't find that at an HBCU," Vandergrift said.

The bill would also guarantee incoming UNC students a set tuition and establish merit scholarships at N.C. A&T and N.C. Central.

For in-state students at 11 other universities, the tuition they pay freshman year would remain the same for at least eight semesters.

Speaking on the issue last week, Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson said while the bill has the good intention of lowering the cost of higher education, and makes up for the revenue loss, there is no guarantee that future lawmakers would continue to provide state appropriations to offset the lost revenue.

"Although, we know it not to be true, the reduction of tuition could create a perception that the quality of education provided by FSU is inferior to that of other institutions. Creating such a perception may undermine our tremendous progress of the past eight years. Should SB 873 become law, we will not allow it to jeopardize the FSU brand and will continue our efforts to ensure that the FSU brand remains strong," said Anderson.

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