Tuition cap dies in Arizona Senate
PHOENIX - A state lawmaker yesterday confirmed plans to abandon a controversial bill that would cap tuition increases at Arizona's public universities.
House of Representatives members approved the measure last month by a convincing 40-19 margin.
The bill, however, lacked necessary support in the Senate - 16 votes - and will have to be reintroduced during a future legislative session.
"I was not able to get it done politically in the Senate," said Rep. Mike Gardener, R-Tempe. "We'll play with it next year."
Gardner's plan was to cap tuition hikes at the rate of inflation plus one percent. With that legislation, the Arizona Board of Regents could not raise next year's tuition by more than 3.56 percent.
Last November, the board voted on a 0.7 percent increase - raising in-state tuition to $2,259.
University of Arizona state lobbyist Greg Fahey called Gardner's decision not to pursue a tuition cap "good news."
"I understand his concerns, but I just believe frankly that the Regents' know the needs of the students," he said.
Sam Leyvas, executive director of the Arizona Students' Association, said he started working with Gardner on the proposal after learning of the Regents' "tuition indexing" plan. The plan could have raised tuition by more than 50 percent over the next five years, he said.
Regents President Judy Gignac, however, said the indexing plan was only one of several options that the Regents have briefly discussed, adding that that there is "nothing on the table to increase tuition at this time."
However, she did not rule out future proposals to increase tuition.
Gignac said board members want state universities to continue to produce a quality product while keeping education "affordable" for students.
Gardner sponsored another measure, House bill 2338, which forces the Regents to widely publicize all meetings where they will discuss raising tuition. The proposal was approved by the Senate last week.
"All we're looking for is more disclosure from the Regents," he said.
If Gov. Jane Hull approves Gardner's second bill, Regents will be required to hold an open meeting on each university campus before raising tuition.
In addition, Regents will have to publish the details of the meeting in local newspapers - an action that Gardner says will give students and parents the opportunity to attend the meetings. He added that giving students a forum to voice their opinions has consistently been the primary objective.
Gignac said the board already does everything stated in the bill.