The demonstration was part of a nationwide effort called a National Day of Action to Defend Education. Organizers claimed coast to coast protests on campuses from California to New York.
Students said they want to end efforts to slash school budgets, raise tuition, and privatize some education programs.
"We've got to act now to stop these cuts to education. This economic crisis is only getting worse and cutting public services and education should not be how the state plugs its budget shortfalls," said UNC senior Scott Williams in a news release sent out by organizers.
Students rallied at the Pit on the UNC campus and then marched to the South Building for speeches and a symbolic sit-in.
"After the sit-in begins, we're planning to stay in South Building for forty-seven minutes: 1,000 seconds, or about 17 minutes, to represent the 1,000 class sections that have been cut from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009 alone, 15 minutes to stand in solidarity with undocumented students who have been denied equal access to higher education in North Carolina, and 15 minutes to represent the more than 145 workers who have been laid off at UNC Chapel Hill alone because of the budget cuts," said UNC senior Ben Carroll.