North Carolina state Sen. Tom Apodaca
ABC 11 screenshot

North Carolina state Sen. Tom Apodaca claimed that he was only trying to make tuition at some of the state’s historically black colleges and universities affordable when he proposed Senate Bill 873, which would have dropped tuition to $500 a semester.

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But the North Carolina NAACP said that the Republican senator’s bill was a shady attempt to put those institutions out of business.

“This bill attacks people of color directly,” North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. William Barber told ABC 11. “The goal is clear: Disperse these centers of cultural, intellectual and political power, and disrupt the mission of HBCUs by bankrupting them.”

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The bill listed three HBCUs—Winston-Salem State, Elizabeth City State and Fayetteville State—and included the historically American Indian liberal arts college the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the senator’s alma mater, Western Carolina.

“I’ve never tried to help people in my life and be treated so poorly,” Apodaca told the news station. “I’ve also been disappointed in being called a racist and bigot,” Apodaca told the Associated Press.

“We want the universities to be healthy and to thrive, and they’re not right now,” he said.

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The bill cleared a Senate committee last week after lawmakers added a provision that the state spend $70 million to help the universities cover the revenue loss resulting from reduced tuition rates.

“We’re trying to help them survive, and what really upsets me is my alma mater is in this bill, and I would do nothing to hurt my alma mater,” Apodaca said. “I met my wife there. My two children graduated from there. So I’m extending this across the state geographically, but I’m to the point now that if perhaps they don’t want to be in this bill, I’ll be willing to take them out.”

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Apodaca has reportedly decided to exclude the HBCUs from the bill. He added: “We can certainly spend that $70 million somewhere else.”

Read more at ABC 11 and WNCN.