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By Zach Thomas
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 26, 1998

Tuition increases just proposals, lobbyist says

PHOENIX - Reports that Arizona's three state university presidents want to raise tuition between 3 percent and 5 percent next year are speculative at best because the state budget is as yet unclear, a lobbyist for students said yesterday.

"They're kind of protecting themselves by saying 3 to 5 percent," said Christine Thompson, who heads the Arizona Students' Association. "They're speculating and kind of giving a round number."

Legislative wrangling about how to finance public school buildings has held up discussions about the state budget, which most years is ready by mid-March.

That makes it hard to estimate the amount of state funding universities will receive and doubly difficult to predict what sort of tuition increase will be needed to cover the shortfall, Thompson said.

"It gives everybody kind of an idea of what they're looking at," Thompson said. "Last year the (tuition) increase was tied to specific priorities. That can't be done right now because we don't know which specific priorities won't be funded by the Legislature. Everybody is trying to play it safe."

Greg Fahey, a University of Arizona lobbyist, said much of the same.

"The budget might be passed by the time the regents meet, but there is a good chance that there won't be a budget deal yet before the regents meeting," Fahey said.

The Arizona Board of Regents is scheduled to set next year's tuition rates during its meeting at the UA April 2 and 3.

According to Fahey, UA President Peter Likins has signed on to the 3 percent to 5 percent numbers as a starting point.

Thompson said lawmakers and administrators will likely continue to look at university budgets and tuition levels on an issue-by-issue basis.

"As of right now, the priorities that are at the Legislature aren't all the same as what will come from tuition," she said. "There are some things that are being asked for funding at the Legislature that wouldn't come from tuition."

Likins has asked for:

  • A 1 percent increase in the merit pay pool for state employees. Cost: About $1.2 million

  • Library funding to keep the library up-to-date on scholarly journals and give officials funding for new information technology. Cost: $1.4 million

  • Campuswide information technology advances, including, for example, updated computer equipment for chemistry and biology laboratories. Cost: Unclear.

  • Other budget priorities include full funding for the UA's Arizona International Campus, which is slated to move on to the main campus this summer. Likins said he would also like to expand the bandwidth of the microwave link between the main campus and Sierra Vista branch campus.

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