Things got pretty heated on campus last …

Things got pretty heated on campus last semester when the NC General Assembly passed a measure saying that all UNC system schools had to tack on a $200 tuition hike and pass that $200 straight up the food chain to the state government’s General Fund. In short, tax students to pay for budget shortfalls.

As an aside, I can only assume that they went this way because they thought that all students were either a) going to school on financial aid, and would just take out additional loans to cover it or b) independently wealthy 19-year-olds who would just peel off a little extra cabbage from the wad their daddies gave them to go to school. Well, I’m in the former group, and my financial aid need has already been calculated for the year, and it didn’t include this.

Nor will it include the additional measure announced last night to hike tuition by $750 more to cover budget shortfalls within the UNC system.

I am not, however, particularly angry about this hike, because I take solace in the economic concept of consumer surplus. In short, it’s the idea that the consumer benefits when he pays less than the maximum he was willing to pay for a good; if the market price (how much the market is willing to pay for something) is above the asking price (how much firms want for the something), consumers get what they perceive to be the full value, while paying less than full price.

See, my college tuition has long been underpriced: that’s why I go to a public university. Quoting from “NC State University At A Glance“:

Financials and Private Support
  • Total budget: $1.1 billion (44% from state appropriations and 16% from tuition)

For the last three years, I’ve paid a small fraction of the actual cost of my schooling, and will continue to do so despite this hike. (For perspective, adding $950 to my $5564 annual tuition+fees is “only” a 17% increase. It may not be a trivial sum, but it also isn’t enough to say that I’m now paying for even a majority of my educational costs.)

So, no, I’m not pissed about having to pay this, because I realize that it’s actually a strange sort of market correction. Instead, I just remain glad that I got three years of radically underpriced education, and will be finishing up with a year of merely moderately underpriced schooling.