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UNCC student paid parking fine in 11,000 pennies

The 1,100 pennies UNCC rising senior Stephen Coyle used to pay parking tickets weighed more than 60 pounds.
The 1,100 pennies UNCC rising senior Stephen Coyle used to pay parking tickets weighed more than 60 pounds. Stephen Coyle

Stephen Coyle was apologizing as soon as he brought 60 pounds of pennies into the Parking and Transportation Services office at UNC Charlotte late last month.

The 26-year-old rising senior was covering parking tickets totaling $110 with pennies in a protest but felt bad for making staff there spend more than three hours counting change.

“I’m sorry that they had to be a part of this whole demonstration thing,” Coyle said Friday.

Coyle was upset that only 20 percent of fines collected by UNCC remain on campus, with the rest going to the state to support public K-12 schools.

So in June the math major went to three banks and withdrew five $25-boxes of pennies. He poured 11,000 of them into three one-gallon buckets, each weighing more than 20 pounds, and paid his fine.

Since then, he’s set up an online fundraising page for UNCC’s Actuarial Science Club and has passed out flyers advocating for a change to the legislation limiting how much fine money UNCC can keep. He’s also taking a full schedule of summer classes.

He and his penny protest have since been featured on ABC News, MTV and USA Today.

“It’s gone so viral so quickly,” Coyle said. “I want to push as hard as I can right now with the media.”

A Facebook page called “#LetThemCount” that Coyle created garnered more than 500 likes by Friday night.

Coyle said people have stopped him on campus asking if “I was the guy that paid with pennies,” and he’s seen other students commenting online that they want to pay future fines in pennies as well.

“I want to eventually use that to get a petition going and start taking that towards local legislatures,” he said.

Coyle said he didn’t mind spending the extra time counting out coins with the parking office.

“We got along great for three-something hours,” he said.

Taylor: 704-358-5353

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