Dozens of students at N.C. State University walked out of their classes Thursday afternoon in protest of several recent changes on campus. The walkout, organized by three student activist groups, aligns with protests at UNC campuses across the state this week aimed at demanding a better funded, more inclusive and debt-free UNC system.

At N.C. State in particular, students protested soaring tuition rates, as well as the shortened hours campus libraries are now open and the numerous construction projects students say lack budgetary transparency.

UNC system tuition has increased by 34 percent since 2007, while state spending per student is down 25 percent. The most recent state budget would cut UNC system funding $76 million.

A $1.3 million budget cut to N.C. State’s Libraries has meant that the D.H. Hill and James B. Hunt Jr. libraries have been taken off of their open-24-hours schedules. Yet, as the students point out, N.C. State has been able to fund several construction projects on campus.

Members of student groups Students Proactively Engaged towards Activism Knowledgeably (SPEAK), the N.C. Student Power Union and Ignite N.C. will deliver a petition outlining their concerns to the UNC Board of Governors at tomorrow’s board meeting in Chapel Hill.

The petition calls for the board to reduce student tuition and increase financial aid incrementally, so that “the 2020 class will graduate free of debt.” It also calls for a moratorium on cuts to faculty pay and funding for departments.

Speaker and N.C. State junior Jonique Lyles said that rising tuition rates are troubling because they disproportionately burden students of color. 81 percent of African American students graduate with debt, Lyles said, compared with 65 percent of white students; 74 percent of Hispanic students who choose not to go to college cite financial concerns as the reason why.

“If our University system stands for diversity, what are they doing to bring diversity to campus,” Lyles said.

Student Debt by the Numbers

$1.2 trillion: national student debt

$26,622,674,000 : N.C. student debt

$23,893: average debt per N.C. student

59% of N.C. students who graduate with debt

$2,000: rise in tuition per student since 2007