Stephen Coyle knows the parking tickets he received at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte were deserved, but it was how the university dealt with the fines that caused the student to protest.
Coyle owed the school $110 in parking fines and decided to do some research about where that money would go. He found that, according to a North Carolina General Assembly statute, the university could only keep 20 percent of the money collected from fines. According to UNCC's website, the rest is given to the state to be distributed to local public schools.
Thinking that money should be reinvested back into UNCC and its students, Coyle, 26, decided to send a message — by paying the fine in all pennies.
“This got me thinking,” Coyle told USA Today. “Why are college students — who are arguably one of the most fiscally challenged group of people — supplementing the funding of public schools when this is actually the responsibility of taxpayers?”
According to WCNC, Coyle had to go to three different banks in order to obtain five boxes that contained $25 each which got him to his total of 11,000 pennies.
Coyle said he watched two university employees count out the pennies for almost four hours.
Coyle told ABC News that a university official originally told him it would be his responsibility to count out the thousands of pennies, but he objected.
"I argued that I've never been in a situation where I had to pay for something and count the money myself," Coyle said. "I told her I would do my best to ensure the accuracy, but in the end it was their responsibility, not mine. I was really nice about it."
But Coyle didn't stop at thousands of pennies. According to him, there is a lack of funding to keep up with UNCC programs and buildings, and he wanted his project to highlight the needs of the university.
The rising UNCC senior set up GoFundMe and Facebook pages on which he highlights his protest and attempts to raise money to meet some of the needs at the school, including study manuals for the UNCC Actuarial Science Club. Coyle hopes that in the long run, the state will overturn the rule and allow for universities to keep all of the money made from fines to put back into the school.
UNCC's website states that the 20 percent of the parking fees collected will be used to supplement the operating costs for the parking enforcement division.
"Unfortunately, the cost of the enforcement program significantly exceeds this amount," the website states.
"Regarding the student who paid his traffic fines in pennies, our understanding is that he paid in pennies to symbolize his dissatisfaction with a North Carolina constitutional mandate," UNCC said in a statement to ABC. "That mandate requires that most of the money from such fines be remitted to the Office of State Budget Management to support public schools, rather than used on campus. The University appreciates the student’s interest and initiative in learning more about the functioning of government."