The tuition surcharge bill, which originated in the ’90s and penalized students who overstayed their welcomes in college, has been repealed in a new bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenior, Wayne).
The 50% surcharge was meant to encourage students to graduate in a timely fashion, penalizing the ones who stayed in universities longer than anticipated, but as the workforce and the demographic of university students changed — so, too, did the ones who were penalized.
“I appreciate the original intent of the surcharge,” Perry said in a release Friday. “Our world has changed over the last couple of decades, and we have gathered a great deal of data on this topic. The surcharge was really impacting non-traditional students who were making attempts to improve their personal productivity. We don’t need to place additional barriers in front of people who are working to better their lives.”
Perry’s Senate Bill 225 to repeal the surcharge passed 46-0 in the Senate and 104-2 in the House before it was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on July 3.
A student from Lenoir County, who had been out of school for the last 10 years, reached out to Perry in an email, telling the senator of the tuition surcharge that made school almost unaffordable.
Perry passed his constituent’s concerns onto the UNC School System to find out who was being impacted by this bill.
“Looking at the data, it was a despairing impact on non-traditional students, minority students, and veterans,” Perry said. “It really impacted people we would not want to increase barriers for.”
The penalties from the tuition surcharge bill had topped $3 million a year for North Carolina families in the past and Perry said that once the problem was made known, the UNC School System was fully supportive of the repeal.
“I think the original intent of this bill was to keep people from slacking off, but people are 18-years-old going out into life on their own and it’s unfair for us to think that they won’t make mistakes,” Perry said. “The man who emailed me has been out of school for 10 years and he is trying to get his life to a point where he wants it and we should never punish people for taking longer than others.”
The “Repeal Tuition Surcharge” bill was the first one that Perry sponsored on his own and getting it passed into law was personal for him.
“I was a community college transfer student, and the first in my family to graduate from college. My mother did not have the money to help pay my tuition, much less a 50% increase,” he said. “My grants, loans and GI Bill were all stretched thin. If I had faced a 50% surcharge, I would never have earned degrees from NCSU and UNC. There are a lot of folks in North Carolina with similar stories. This is good, common sense legislation for the people.”