Matthew Hall

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A need for more independently-funded student organizations

UNC Charlotte has many different clubs and organizations, ranging from religious and political to advocate organizations. Student organizations are a foundation of college life that make college a more social place to be. However, an important question is brought up concerning student organizations and funding. The Student Government Association (SGA), using student funds, provides some financial aid to qualifying student organizations. According to the student organizations website, aid is divided up into several categories: Operation, Travel, On-Campus Event, Off-Campus Event, Co-Sponsored Event, Movie Theater Grant and Publication. But should aid, comprised of student funds, be given to student organizations?

All students enrolled at UNC Charlotte, including myself, agreed to a certain amount of student fees going toward university fees. A portion of these fees is used to help fund student organizations. According to the student organizations website, the maximum dollar amounts each student organization may apply for within each aid category are as follows: Operational, $250 per semester; Travel, $2,400 per year; On-Campus Event, $2,500 per event; Off-Campus Event, $700 (for a maximum of two events per semester); Co-Sponsored Event, $4,000 (for a maximum of one event per semester); Movie Theater Grant, $600; and Publication, $1,000.  

I don’t believe that aid should be given, even in smaller amounts, to student organizations. Don’t get me wrong, student organizations are a great thing for any university. They help cater to students who want to do more than just go to class every day. They also help add to the social aspect of the university by allowing students interested in common things to meet outside of class and partake in their organizations’ activities. Students who have common interests and goals should create or join a student organization, but it needs to be financially independent of the university. This is due to several reasons, the first is that not all students may agree with the organization’s practices. The second reason is that while we can afford to aid student organizations, is it the wisest allocation of resources?

UNC Charlotte, like most universities, is a place with many different kinds of people and an environment in which those people can share their ideas with others. Religious organizations have a place on campus; they are a place for students to practice their faith. That being said, the organizations should be able to fund themselves and not require any university funding. As students, we pay tuition to come to this university and earn a degree. The money we pay to the university shouldn’t go to any student organization, including religious ones. In effect, students would be indirectly financially supporting an organization, if that organization took any aid from SGA. Students who may not agree with a particular organization’s beliefs or practices shouldn’t have their dollars going to that organization.

Some students may argue that when the university financially supports an organization, it helps improve the university as a whole, and yes that can be true, but not in all cases. Religious and political student organizations are specifically tailored to those who believe in that particular organizations’ beliefs. While they provide benefits for the students involved, those who are not see little to no benefit. It would level the field for all student organizations if none would receive aid from SGA.

While the university can afford to contribute funds to student organizations, is it the best way to allocate financial resources? The Niner Times reported earlier this year that the university has asked the state legislature for $45 million to renovate campus buildings. Considering that, I believe the student organization funds could be better used if they were contributed to the renovation projects or even to maintaining our amphitheater. With the university enrollment at approximately 30,000, the expansion and renovation of the campus has become an increasingly important subject for the university.

Student organizations are a great way for students to get involved in college life, and to contribute to the university, but I believe it is not necessary to use funds from the university in order to do so. Students who may not agree with a particular organization may feel like they are supporting it if they are indirectly helping to fund that organization. The funds could be allocated better and in a way that would contribute to all students, such as building renovations.

The plight with federal aid relating to higher education

College tuition and the debt attached to it has been a hot topic among students, and more recently, among politicians. The prevailing idea among politicians and the general public was that increasing federal aid, including loans and grants, would eliminate the prices students would have to pay due to the increase in overall tuition, but studies show that federal loans and grants, which are designed to help students, may actually harm them. This is partially due to a mentality among politicians that if federal aid is given to students, then it will mutually benefit both students and colleges; but research shows that while it helps colleges, it serves as a detriment to students.

While inflation has been rising in the last 30 years, college tuition has far surpassed it. According to College Board, between the 1987/1988 and 2017/2018 school years, 4-year public institutions’ tuition rose 213% while 4-year private institutions’ rose 129%. Federal aid has also increased. College Board also found that between the 2006/2007 and 2016/2017 school years, federal grant aid rose by 102% while federal loans rose by 31% during the same period. Federal spending and college tuition have both risen, which brings up the question — is there a positive correlation between federal aid and college tuition?

When federal aid grows, it entices colleges to raise prices because they know that federal aid will cushion the blow for some students. Those who receive federal aid will not notice the growing tuition as much as those who receive little to no federal aid. Colleges continue to raise prices knowing that federal aid will continue to meet the growing demand. A study entitled “Does Federal Student Aid Raise Tuition?” from the National Bureau of Economic Research, done by Stephanie Riegg Cellini and Claudia Goldin, found that for-profit colleges that had access to federal aid were 75% more expensive than for-profit colleges that did not have access to federal aid. The study was conducted only on for-profit colleges, but with the available student loans, I believe that non-profit schools are also enticed to do the same. A different study entitled “Accounting for the Rise in College Tuition,” conducted by Grey Gordon and Aaron Hedlund, found that equilibrium tuition at colleges rose approximately 102% due to grants and loans alone between 1987 and 2010. They also include a clause within their findings, stating that without a proper way to measure how school competitiveness would affect the finding, the finding above is based on a non-competitive school. The authors suggest that school competitiveness would help stagnate rising costs associated with the increases in federal student aid. In addition to the increase in tuition, the study also found that default rates also went up (17%-32%).

This brings up the question: how does this affect UNC Charlotte? While UNC Charlotte has relatively lower tuition prices compared to some of its counterparts in the UNC system, to what extent is UNC Charlotte competitive? There are other universities located in and around Charlotte, but all are private. Considering that UNC Charlotte is the only public 4-year university in the Charlotte area, it attracts most students from the Charlotte area who wish to go to a local public university. Without any public university competition close to UNC Charlotte, and with the increasing and costly construction projects, UNC Charlotte and the state would see no problem with an increase in tuition rate, as needed. Another aspect of student loans, specifically the PLUS loan (which is an unlimited loan for parents of students), is that they would entice colleges to raise prices because they know that parents could fall back on PLUS loans, and the only requirement to obtain the loans is a credit based one that was implemented under the Obama administration.

The crisis of college tuition and student debt is not a problem with an easy solution and will require multiple steps and solutions to solve it, but we can start by decreasing federal aid and making it more competitive among students. With a decrease in aid, colleges will be forced either to regulate prices or lose students, the latter being something that colleges will strive to prevent, making the first option more viable.

The correlation between the cost of college and federal aid, both to students and colleges, implies that a curbing of federal aid to colleges would actually help the average student rather than hurt them. It could persuade parents and students not to take out loans that they may not be able to pay back in the case of PLUS loans. The relation between federal aid and college tuition is something that not only affects colleges but its students and potential students who view cost as an important factor when deciding to go to college. As college tuition continues to skyrocket, due in part to more federal aid as well as other factors, we as a society need to tackle the important issue. While decreasing federal aid will not solve the problem of student debt and rising costs entirely, it could be a good first step.

Stop BEZOS Act targets capitalism

Over the past few months, Senator Sanders and other democrats in Congress have been stepping up their attack on big business, and with Senator Sanders’ new bill, it steps up the assault on corporate welfare in America. While there may need to be a solution to low wage workers and the assistance they receive from the federal government, targeting big business won’t solve the issue; it will only make it worse.

Recently, Sanders introduced the Stop BEZOS Act, which stands for “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies.” While it sounds like a strange name for a bill, the name serves a purpose by zeroing out Jeff Bezos, which is where the acronym of the bill comes from. Senator Sanders wants Amazon and other large corporations to pay their employees fair wages and to get the employees off of government welfare by taxing these companies a dollar for every dollar the employees take in government welfare. While this sounds like a noble cause, there are several issues with this proposal.

The biggest issue is one of economic concern, which Senator Sanders seems to overlook quite often. The base pay for an employee at Amazon is $12 dollars an hour, which surpasses Walmart’s base pay of $11 and the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Making $12 per hour is not terrible, as described by Senator Sanders, and it is actually pretty decent compared to fast food or other retail distributors. Senator Sanders’ bill tries to address a problem involving welfare by taxing companies more, but a real solution would be to get rid of welfare and decrease business taxes so that the company could give more to their employees. It worked in the case of Walmart, as they raised their minimum wage to $11 due to the Trump administration’s tax cuts.

While some companies may not give their employees raises if they get a tax cut, generally tax cuts will still help with economic growth. Another concern of the bill is a concern that is already present in the low-wage market, and that is the introduction of Artificial Intelligence into the workplace. We’ve already seen this in chains such as McDonald’s and could very well see this in many more workplaces. If Senator Sanders’ bill is approved, then many companies may just lay off employees and convert to a more AI friendlier workplace.

This new bill also poses a new question: How far will the government go to intervene in the private sector? While the government does set a federal minimum wage, the government does not generally dictate what a company pays its employees past the minimum wage. With Senator Sanders’s new bill, if passed, government would indirectly be setting a new wage for large corporations, which is a violation by the government into the private sector. If Senator Sanders and his democrat colleagues wanted to end welfare abuse, then they should look at cutting welfare such as food stamps and housing out of the federal budget all together. The employees who work at Amazon and other large corporations were never forced to work at these businesses, and because of the large economic growth in the past year, they have many more job opportunities available to them.

While this bill has yet to pass, as it was just introduced by Senator Sanders and his colleagues, it poses a danger to the free market society and to capitalism by introducing government into the everyday affairs of corporations, big and small. As we have seen in the past, Senator Sanders and his ideology have put capitalism at risk by having it governed by the bureaucracy that is the federal government. By putting more regulation upon the private sector, it will only slow the growth of the economy, therefore hurting workers of all backgrounds.