Monday, February 20, 2012

Higher education is a consitutionally-enshrined right in North Carolina

The local paper has a letter to the editor berating students protesting tuition increases at UNC for claiming a "right" to a college education.
The front page of the Feb. 11 News and Record shows a picture of students protesting the university budget cuts. What caught my attention were the signs proclaiming “Education is a right.” No, it is not! It is an earned privilege (after public secondary school). Where in the U.S. Constitution are individuals guaranteed the right to an education? It is this Constitution that ensures your right to protest.

Is it ignorance of the Constitution or just plain effete entitlement? Is it a reflection of the public education system’s failure to teach basic civics and how our great nation was created to operate? Be aware that the government governs only at the pleasure of the people. Government does not afford rights to the people, as we are all born with inalienable rights that government neither grants, affords nor can legally infringe. Read the Bill of Rights. The Constitution limits the powers of the federal government. During our liberal/progressive periods, this is lost by the public and our leaders.

This limit escapes our university students, apparently. It is the era of entitlements that led our young people to believe someone else (taxpayers) is obligated to ensure their higher education.
The letter writer focuses on the U.S. Constitution, which is indeed silent about a right to higher education.

However, the applicable document in this case is the North Carolina Constitution, which does provide such rights. Specifically, Article IX, section 8 states
The General Assembly shall maintain a public system of higher education, comprising The University of North Carolina and such other institutions of higher education as the General Assembly may deem wise. The General Assembly shall provide for the selection of trustees of The University of North Carolina and of the other institutions of higher education, in whom shall be vested all the privileges, rights, franchises, and endowments heretofore granted to or conferred upon the trustees of these institutions. The General Assembly may enact laws necessary and expedient for the maintenance and management of The University of North Carolina and the other public institutions of higher education.
Section 9 states
The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.
And Section 10 states that the funds from escheats will be directed toward financial aid for needy in-state higher-education students.

Is the letter writer showing ignorance of his state's Constitution, or just effete entitlement to overlook rights and obligations that are inconvenient?

On this one, the UNC students are right, and the letter writer is wrong. Affordable higher education is a constitutionally-enshrined right in North Carolina.

Maybe someone should also remind the Republican legislature, which seems to have forgotten its Constitutional obligations to higher education.