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From tuition to financial aid, dollars flow from students' pockets

By David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 9, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

It all starts with orientation.

New UA students pay $100 and parents pay $50 to take part in the orientation process - the tours, tests and everything else that accustom newcomers to the University of Arizona.

For some it gets worse, as airfare, hotels and food can launch the bill for a two-day, mid-summer Tucson trip well into the thousand-dollar range.

Nydia Castro, an orientation office staffer, said students and parents can save the hundreds of dollars that Tucson hotels charge by staying in the dorms.

Castro said students pay $21 for a night in Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall and parents can get a taste of dorm life at Coronado for $35 night.

But when the flight or drive home from orientation is over, the fun really starts.

Books, CatCard, hall dues and much more - the wallet grows cobwebs, the bank account loses a few digits and the piggy bank was smashed long ago.

Then, out of nowhere, like a slap in the face - the tuition bill. It's the dreaded envelope that no student or parent ever wants to receive.


Once it's paid, the UA's customers are often left wondering where all the money went.

"It kind of loses its identity," said Jeff West, the UA's associate controller in financial management.

West said tuition money is not kept as separate, identifiable items. Rather, it's sent to the state capital, where the wheels turn and lawmakers decide how the money should best be spent.

West describes it as "lump-sum budgeting," as state officials will send a pile of money back down from Phoenix to reimburse the university for all the tuition money that it already sent.

Confusing? West said the only identifiable parts of the tuition payment are fees like the $25 Student Recreation Center charge or the $1 KAMP Student Radio fee.

Financial Aid

For students and parents who find themselves short on cash, the UA financial aid office can be the answer.

UA Financial Aid Director Phyllis Bolt Bannister said between 1996 and 1997, almost 25,000 students received $201 million in financial aid.

Bannister also said they handed out $41 million worth of grants, waivers and scholarships.

"We help students already enrolled at the UA by providing information and outreach," she said.


Bannister said people who run into financial problems while attending the UA can appeal for "access to temporary loans when financial emergencies occur."

Investors can see the results of their deposits on the CatCard, and Director Liz Taylor said parents are happier with the idea that they can designate money for certain on-campus necessities.

"We're seeing a lot more usage of the chip now," Taylor said.

She said the CatCard's Smartchip works on snack machines, library printers and copy machines.

"They love it," Taylor said. "It helps the student budget their money."

Taylor also said the CatCard's association with Saguaro Credit Union allows parents to deposit money even if home is thousands of miles away.

"From long distance, they can transfer their students some money," she said. "The parents like it once they understand it."

Diane Collins, a UA financial management accounting assistant who works in the Memorial Student Union's All CatCard deposit office, said the average student puts about $300 on their All Aboard accounts.

But Collins said some customers get lost amid all the card's different options.

"Right now, the problem is confusion about the different ways to put money on the card," she said. "We get a lot of questions about where they can use the different plans."

David J. Cieslak can be reached via e-mail at David.J.Cieslak@wildcat.arizona.edu.