Tom Apodaca, a North Carolina senator from Hendersonville, has introduced Senate bill 873, that’s touted as the “Access to Affordable College Education Act”. It would lower tuition at some of the state’s historically black universities and guarantee that if students graduate, their tuition wouldn’t increase.
If you read the fine print, however, it effectively guts the idea of the state’s HBCUs.
Part V of the bill directs the University of North Carolina to “evaluate” if the name of the institution has had an impact on the “diversity” of the student body and, if the right “diversity” of students doesn’t meet with the approval of the legislature, they will change the names.
The bill would effectively legislate a name change for most of the UNC systems HCBUs unless they can attract a more racially mixed student body.
Rumors have been swirling around the UNC system for a couple of years that the legislature has wanted to close one or more of the HCBUs. This proposed bill looks like a “back door” way to simply erase the historical identity of these institutions and effectively end their unique service to minority communities.
News outlets mentioning the bill (such as Fox8 and the News and Observer) didn’t highlight the implications of this bill and should be called out for not highlighting it. The bill is similar to 2013’s Motorcycle Abortion bill, highlighting lower tuition when the actual intent is to wipe out NC’s HCBUs.
GOP members of the legislature aren't looking to improve academics or diversity in the UNC system, nor are they interested in making college more affordable for students. They view the HCBUs as a political threat - they are institutions that have historically played a large part in Civil Rights actions, such as the lunch counter sit-ins of the sixties, and where awareness of minority issues are a key part of their contribution today.
It will be curious to see if this bill advances and if the "poison pill" sections of the bill survive or gain wider attention. Already, I've seen some graduates of HCBUs talking about this on social media and they're furious.