News Column

DSCC: On Student Loans, Would Thom Tillis Continue Standing with Special Interests & Against North Carolina College Students?

June 12, 2014



WASHINGTON, June 12 -- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued the following news release:

Today as Republicans in Congress voted en masse against making college more affordable, Thom Tillis is refusing to say whether he would also put special interests ahead of North Carolina college students or support a measure that would help North Carolina students with the crushing weight of student loan debt. North Carolinians have a right to know exactly where Tillis stands.

As the leader of the North Carolina state legislature, Tillis supported allowing community colleges to refuse federal student loans and led the passage of a budget that would increase tuition at North Carolina community colleges and universities, making it harder for North Carolina working families to send their children to college. In 2011, Tillis proved just how out of touch he is with North Carolina students when he said that college tuition hikes are not always a bad thing. In addition to his terrible record of putting his special interests ahead of North Carolina college students, Tillis has a disastrous education record that includes prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy over North Carolina students and teachers, cutting funding for public education by nearly $500 million, forcing teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and freezing teacher pay.

With a record like that, North Carolinians must assume Tillis would oppose making college more affordable for working families by closing tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires and using the savings to allow anyone with pre-existing student loans to refinance their loans at lower rates. In North Carolina alone,678,000 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/student_debt_report_final.pdf) borrowers could benefit from refinancing their student loans at a lower rates. Would Thom Tillis have sided with special interests and voted against helping North Carolinians with student loan debt?

"North Carolina students and families deserve to know where Thom Tillis stands on the bill that would help more than 675,000 North Carolinians with student loan debt," said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "North Carolinians deserve to know if instead of fighting to make college more affordable, Thom Tillis would vote to allow millionaires and billionaires to enjoy their tax breaks. North Carolinians deserve leaders who will fight for them in Washington, not reckless partisans like Thom Tillis who always puts the interests of his Washington special interest friends first."

BACKGROUND:

TILLIS SUPPORTED ALLOWING COMMUNITY COLLEGES TO REFUSE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS, MAKING IT HARDER FOR WORKING FAMILIES TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO COLLEGE

Tillis Said It Was A "Good Day" When Community Colleges Were No Longer Required To Accept Federal Student Loans. In April 2013, The Watauga Democrat stated, "Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute will join a number of North Carolina colleges in no longer accepting federal student loans starting this fall, the school's board of trustees decided this week. The board members voted unanimously Wednesday to stop processing the loans because high loan default levels have threatened the college's ability to offer federal aid, said public information officer Edward Terry. That aid could include Pell grants, which are used by more Caldwell students than loans and do not have to be repaid. 'The question is, what is most difficult for the college?' Trustee Ron Beane said in Wednesday's meeting. 'Both would be disastrous, but the worst thing would be to lose Pell.' Students still may seek private loans, which are generally less flexible and with higher interest rates In 2010, Democrats in the N.C. General Assembly passed a law requiring community colleges to participate in the federal student loan program. The following year, legislators reversed, passing a law that allowed colleges to opt out of the program. Former Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed that bill in 2011, but legislators passed a number of local bills giving dozens of individual colleges the ability to decline the federal student loans. In June 2012, both houses overrode Perdue's veto, again allowing all North Carolina colleges to decide whether to accept federal loans. Perdue then accused the General Assembly of being 'the most anti-public education legislature in North Carolina history,' while House Speaker Thom Tillis called it a 'good day for community colleges.' [Watauga Democrat, ellipses added, 4/20/13]

* Tillis Praised Bill Which Allowed Community Colleges to Opt Out of Federal Student Loan Programs.. In June 2012, the News & Observer reported, "Tillis' office released a statement praising the bipartisan support for the bill, which he noted some community college administrators had requested. It allows them not to participate in a federal student loan program for low-income students, which the bill's sponsors say has endangered federal funding because of a high rate of default in some colleges. 'It's a good day for community colleges, who now have more control over their financial aid systems,' Tillis said." [News & Observer, 6/14/12]

Tillis Voted to Allow Certain Community Colleges to Opt Out of Federal Loan Program, "The Measures Would Allow About Two Dozen Community Colleges To Refuse To Offer Low-Interest Federal Student Loans." In June 2011, Tillis supported, "an act to provide that certain North Carolina community colleges may opt out of participation in the William D. Ford federal direct loan program." The act passed 75-43. AP reported, "Lawmakers added momentum Wednesday to bills that would let community colleges refuse to offer low-interest federal student loans The state Senate voted largely along party lines on three local bills designed to sidestep one of Gov. Beverly Perdue's vetoes. The measures would allow about two dozen community colleges to refuse to offer low-interest federal student loans. Perdue can't veto local bills. Republicans are working to change a law that requires all 58 campuses in the nation's third-largest community college system to offer the loans beginning next month. College presidents have said they fear if student loan defaults go too high they'll lose all federal financial aid, something that rarely happens." The bill was ratified on 6/16/11. [Vote 1070, (Tillis - Y), HB 58, 6/16/11 (http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=H58&votesToView=all); AP, ellipses added, 6/16/11]

TILLIS: TUITION HIKES NOT ALWAYS A BAD THING

Tillis: Tuition Hikes "Are Not Always A Bad Thing." In November 2011, The Watauga Democratstated, "Chancellor Kenneth Peacock asked Tillis if, should the hike be approved, the university will be able to keep the deficit after the 6.5 percent recommended cap. He wanted to make sure cuts elsewhere wouldn't make up for the extra money. 'I'm going to leave it to the chancellor and the board of governors to determine what price they should set for their product,' Tillis said. 'I believe that most of the chancellors, probably all of them, certainly most of them, are never going to price their education experiences out of the market where it's not competitive.' Tuition hikes however, he said, are not always a bad thing. 'I believe that there are institutions that are underpriced,' he said, recounting a story from another state about a tuition hike. 'The weirdest thing happened. When they raised tuition, more people applied. I'm not so sure there's not some sort of mix where tuition couldn't be raised.'" [Watatuga Democrat, 11/17/11]

TILLIS LED PASSAGE OF 2013 BUDGET THAT WOULD INCREASE TUITION AT NORTH CAROLINA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

Tillis Supported the Appropriations Act of 2013. In June 2013, Tillis supported, "an act to make base budget appropriations for current operations of state departments, institutions, and agencies, and for other purposes." The act passed 65-53.." WNCN reported, "In a statement, House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) called the state's tax system 'archaic,' and said it 'punished success and ignored the needs of a modern society.' 'Through those years, many have tried and failed to bring true reform to the system in a way that benefits every taxpayer,' Tillis said. 'Today, we are accomplishing what others could not by signing into law a historic measure that will bring tax relief to our citizens and make our state more competitive for economic development and job creation.'" The Governor signed this bill into law on 7/26/13. [Vote 1297, (Tillis - Y), SB 402, 7/24/13 (http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2013&BillID=S402&votesToView=all); WNCN, 7/24/13]

Final Budget Increased Tuition for Community College By $2.50 Per Credit Hour. As reported by the News & Observer, "What the budget does: Education: Increases community college tuition by $2.50 per credit hour, or a maximum of $80 per year for degree students." [News & Observer, 7/24/13 (http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/24/3054513/state-budget-wins-final-legislative.html)]

Final Budget Increased Tuition For UNC Students From Out-of-State By Up to 12.3 Percent. As reported by the News & Observer, "What the budget does: Education: Increases tuition for out-of-state undergraduates in 2014-15 by 12.3 percent at the UNC School of the Arts, N.C. A&T State, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Wilmington; 6 percent at other campuses." [News & Observer, 7/24/13 (http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/24/3054513/state-budget-wins-final-legislative.html)]

TILLIS' 2011 BUDGET SLASHED FUNDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION INCLUDING $35 MILLION FROM FINANCIAL AID AND NEARLY $13 MILLION IN GRANTS AND SCHOLARSHIPS FOR NORTH CAROLINA STUDENTS

2011: Tillis Supported the Appropriations Act of 2011. In June 2011, Tillis supported, "an act to spur the creation of private sector jobs; reorganize and reform state government; make base budget appropriations for current operations of state departments and institutions; and to enact budget related amendments." The act passed 73-45. The Asheville Citizen-Times stated, "On the budget, Perdue criticized a Republican plan she said will severely cut education in the state and force a 'step backward' she's not willing to take. Perdue said she was heading back to Raleigh this morning and will continue to study the details of the budget, which she looked at yesterday. Asked if she would veto the budget, Perdue did not directly answer at first. She said she studied the budget some Sunday and will need more time to read through it more thoroughly. Perdue did say if the budget attempts to 'back away from North Carolina's core commitment to education, then yes I will veto the budget.' 'I do intend to go through it and read the document and read the provisions, which contain, as usual, a lot of emphasis on changing the law without, in my opinion, proper public debate,' she said.

While Republicans have insisted their budget proposal will not result in direct cuts of hands-on educators, Perdue disputed that." The act was vetoed by Governor Perdue on 6/12/11. The veto was overridden on 6/15/11.[Vote 738, (Tillis - Y), HB 200, 6/4/11 (http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=H200&votesToView=all); Asheville Citizen-Times, 6/6/11]

* Budget Cut $35 Million From NC Universities' Need-Based Financial Aid Program. As reported by The Daily Tar Heel, "The system released numbers detailing the impact of the state legislature's budget proposal at last week's Board of Governors meeting. The proposal would reduce state funding for UNC-system schools by 14.6 percent or $407 million, including a cut of $35 million for the system's need-based financial aid program." [The Daily Tar Heel, 6/22/11 (http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2011/06/state_budget_decisions_to_have_reaching_effects_on_unc)]

* Budget Cut $12.8 Million From Grants and Scholarships to In-State Students Attending Private Colleges. According to the AP, the budget would: "save $12.8 million by reducing by 12.3 percent, for grants and scholarships to in-state students attending private colleges." [AP, 6/15/11 (http://www.digtriad.com/news/article/179460/57/Pending-2011-2012-North-Carolina-State-Budget-Details)]

AND INCREASED TUITION AT NORTH CAROLINA COMMUNITY COLLEGES

2011 Budget Required $50.8 Million In Additional Savings Through The Community College System. [Herald-Sun, 6/4/11]

2011 Budget Increased Community College Tuition By $10 Per Credit Hour For State Residents. According to the AP, the budget would: "increase tuition by $10 per credit hour to $66.50 for residents and $258.50 for nonresidents, saving $47.7 million." [AP, 6/15/11 (http://www.digtriad.com/news/article/179460/57/Pending-2011-2012-North-Carolina-State-Budget-Details)]

TILLIS VOTED AGAINST 2007 BUDGET THAT INCLUDED $60 MILLION IN COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS

2007: Tillis Voted Against the 2007 North Carolina Budget. In July 2007, Tillis voted against the 2007 NC Appropriations Act. The act passed 64-52. The bill was signed by the Governor on 7/31/07. [Vote 1200, (Tillis - N), HB 1473, 7/30/07 (http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2007&BillID=H1473&votesToView=all); Asheville Citizen-Times, 8/12/07; AP, 8/1/07; AP, 8/2/07]

* Budget Included $60 Million in Scholarships For Low-and-Middle Income Students "That Could Help A Generation Get Through College Without Amassing Crippling Debt." As reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times, "The overall budget makes an admirable attempt at building a better future for North Carolinians. There's $60 million in scholarship funds for low- and middle-income students that could help a generation get through college without amassing crippling debt. There's a massive three-year outlay of more than $100 million for groundbreaking work on cancer at UNC Chapel Hill." [Asheville Citizen-Times, 8/1/07]

* The Herald-Sun Editorial: "But The State Budget Passed This Week Brings The Dream Of A College Degree Within Reach Of Anyone Who Is Willing To Work For It, Regardless Of Income." In August 2007, The Herald-Sun editorialized, "But the state budget passed this week brings the dream of a college degree within reach of anyone who is willing to work for it, regardless of income. It uses several complementary approaches, including: Innovative high schools where students can earn college and high school credits simultaneously. Wiring all high schools with high speed Internet. And providing tuition grants so low-income students can attend two years of college without incurring debt." [Editorial, Herald-Sun, 8/2/07]

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