It was without irony that the UNC Board of Governors eliminated the UNC Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity — John Edwards’ other baby, if you recall — in the same session they voted to increase tuition at the system schools.

UNCG will cost just under $14,000 a year by 2017, an increase in fees and tuition of almost 10 percent. NC A&T University will jump more than 12 percent to more than $12,000 for two semesters a year.

UNC School of the Arts pops up $1,400 a year, bringing the total cost of fees and tuition to more than $17,000. It will only cost another $450 to attend Winston-Salem State in 2017, but it will still cost more than $11,000 a year.

The most amazing thing about these numbers — besides the fact that it costs more for an in-state student to go to NC State than it does Chapel Hill — are how reasonable they may seem to some North Carolinians, particularly the ones on the board of governors.

And it’s true that the value of a UNC education far outweighs the cost, even with these adjusted rates.

But had the board perused the poverty center’s website before disbanding it, they might have learned that our state is one of the poorest in the nation, with three cities — Forest City, Roanoke Rapids and Lumberton — calculated as among the 10 poorest in the nation.

The poverty levels in the Triad’s two metro areas are growing faster than almost anywhere else in the country; 22 percent of Forsyth County residents live in poverty, defined as below $24,250 a year for a family of four — or two years at A&T.

How is anyone in that household going to go to college?

Across North Carolina, the median household income for a family of four is less than it costs for a single out-of-state student to go to NC State for a year, but still not enough to cover a four-year, in-state degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The reason for closing the poverty center, board Chair John Fennebresque wrote last week in a letter to the News & Observer, was that it “was unable to demonstrate any appreciable impact on the issue of poverty.”

No doubt that pushing higher education even further out of reach for more than half of our state’s families will be equally ineffective.


  1. The state constitution mandates that public higher ed be as nearly free as is practicable. Eventually this WILL be the subject of a lawsuit, and that lawsuit will dwarf the Leandro case.

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