While some European nations, such as Germany and Denmark, provide a free university education for their citizens, the cost of college in the U.S. has been consistently rising.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has stated the cost of a public university education has risen by about 28 percent since the 2007-08 school year, and North Carolina is among the top five states for cutting funding.
Because of this combination, more and more students are having to rely on student loans, both public and private, in order to be able to pay for their college education.
The increased reliance on student loans changes the purpose of college for the worst, making it more and more a costly investment in one’s future economic potential instead of purely an educational institution. However, this change has not happened without opposition.
The North Carolina Student Power Union was established two years ago and has become increasingly active, organizing a walk-out on UNC Greensboro’s campus last month. The organization held similar movements at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State and UNC Charlotte, as well. While the NC Student Power Union has a long list of reform demands, its main objective is to eradicate the usage of student loans within the UNC system of schools.
The first step to reducing the amount of student loans taken out is to reduce tuition. However, a reduction in tuition can only happen if the state government increases its funding.
The fact of the matter is student loans exist on such a massive scale because they produce profit for both businesses and the government. Until mass action is taken, the system will not change.
In addition to organizing walk-outs, the NC Student Power Union is trying to convince the UNC Board of Governors to make all of their meetings open to students, faculty and staff.
It is important for these three groups to maintain solidarity when seeking reforms. There is the possibility that politicians will claim that tuition can only be lowered by cutting costs, which could translate to the cutting of tenure-track positions and even faculty and staff pay cuts.
Student loans should not be used as a wedge to divide groups that ought to be united. North Carolina needs to prioritize education by making it available for more individuals, lowering tuition and abolishing student debt.
At the same time, faculty and staff are an important part of the university and should not be exploited, though an argument could be made that they already are.
Debates over who is being exploited the most will not benefit anyone other than the exploiters. Student debt is harming all members of the university and needs to be reduced, if not eradicated. The NC Student Power Union is doing a wonderful job of trying to cause overdue change.
Hopefully chapters will spring up on the other UNC campuses and the union will accomplish its goals.
Malcolm, a junior history major from Walkertown, is an opinion writer.