Bill lowers tuition at historic Indian university in North Carolina

A marker at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Photo from Waymarking

Tuition at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, which was founded to educate members of the Lumbee Tribe, would be lowered to just $500 a semester under a controversial bill.

When Sen. Tom Apodaca (R) introduced SB 873, the Access to Affordable Higher Education Act, it included five public institutions that primarily serve Native American, African American and low-income students. Outcry forced him to remove all but Pembroke and Western Carolina University -- which enjoys a close relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians -- from the measure.

“I’ve also been disappointed in being called a racist and bigot,” Apodaca told the Associated Press.

The Lumbee Tribe, whose ancestors helped found Pembroke in 1887, hasn't commented on the bill but university chancellor Robin Gary Cummings has raised questions about the potential impact on the school's budget. African American leaders had raised similar concerns.

"Access to higher education has been at the core of UNC Pembroke’s mission since its founding 129 years ago, so we welcome discussion about ensuring college is within reach for as many people as possible," Cummings said in a message last month. "However, we have raised questions regarding the implementation of SB 873, should it become law, as well as potential unintended effects on our campus, specifically regarding financial sustainability and the value of our brand."

Between 1887 and 1953, the student population at Pembroke was exclusively or predominantly Indian. Today, about 15 percent of the student body is Native American, according to the university.

Get the Story:
Branded a racist, lawmaker scales back tuition-cut proposal (AP 6/1)
Legislation to set $500 tuition at Fayetteville State, UNC Pembroke, advancing today (The Fayetteville Observer 5/25)

An Opinion:
Editorial: Drowning UNC in a bathtub (The Triad City Beat 5/18)

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