Editorial: Financial break good for students

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 11:45 PM

The sound of good news to prospective students and their parents has been heard from North Carolina’s public university system.

Still in a proposal status, the UNC system plans no tuition increases for undergraduates who live in the state. The system is writing its budget, subject to the approval of the UNC Board of Governors in February.

Fees are being set to increase on some of the 17 campuses, but the average amount is at a five-year low.

Sending children to college has never been more important. And likewise, it has never been so burdensome.

Parents and students are trudging into the world of debt, but with diploma in hand. They could use a break.

The new norm evolving is parents wanting children to graduate from college, not just high school. The last two decades have flushed the working world with an education-enhanced workforce.

The coupling of a recession has left many underemployed and even unemployed. College graduates have been staggered when unable to find work. Many have returned to school for more training.

Having fewer students able to gain higher education would not be the answer. Throughout the last 30 years, costs for education have risen at shocking rates. Whether public or private, large or small, alumni regularly share with friends, “I went to school four years for what it takes to send my kid for one now.”

Part of the rise is inflation. Another part is supply and demand. Colleges had nowhere to put students. Literally.

Many have expanded, refurbished or rebuilt on campus. That cost money, and current students have paid a share.

In many places, admissions requirements have steadily risen as well. We hope for no regress there.

The Legislature’s big-picture approach, well beyond the halls of academia, has been an enhancement of North Carolina and what it has to offer. Raising out-of-state tuition but not in-state is part of the equation.

So too is encouragement of summer classes, making universities more usable year-round. And the state’s governing body has demanded of the university system what other industries routinely seek — efficiency, often more with less.

However this budget shakes out, we hope students and parents get the financial break they are long overdue.