Regents approve $84 in-state tuition increase
McGrath attacks rise in tuition, says she will file lawsuit against ABOR
The Arizona Board of Regents yesterday approved an $84 tuition increase for in-state students at Arizona public universities next year, $16 less than the university presidents' proposal.
Student representatives criticized the presidents' proposal when they got an opportunity to address the regents during the first day of ABOR's meeting in Flagstaff. After more than an hour of discussion, the compromised tuition raise was set.
State Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, wrote a letter to ABOR President Hank Amos April 3, asking that he not raise tuition.
"Every increase knocks someone out of a college education," McGrath said yesterday.
McGrath said now that ABOR has raised tuition rates, the board has violated the state constitution, which requires tuition to be free or as free as possible. McGrath said she is going to contact the Arizona Attorney General, Janet Napolitano.
"Our next step is to file suit (against ABOR)," McGrath said. "I'm ticked."
Amos attacked McGrath's letter during the tuition discussion.
"I find it insulting," Amos said.
Amos said the Legislature does not properly fund the state universities and therefore does not have the right the attack the decisions of the regents.
The three state university presidents brought their suggested tuition increases to the board for consideration. Each president proposed about a $100 increase for in-state students and had varying increases for out-of-state students.
University of Arizona President Peter Likins proposed a $388 tuition increase for out-of-state students.
ABOR passed a $388 increase for both the UA and Arizona State University and NAU will have a $400 increase next year.
At the beginning of the discussion, the three student body presidents were given the opportunity to address the board.
"I feel this is more of a formality," said Paul Peterson, Northern Arizona University student body president.
Peterson accused the board of having come to a decision prior to listening to the students.
"We have not made our decision ahead of time," said Regent Judy Gignac in response to Peterson's accusations.
Peterson argued that the universities' needs do not require an increase as large as the presidents proposed.
"The 4.6 percent (increase) is more than a prudent request," Peterson said. "We haven't seen the return on the investment."
NAU President Clara Lovett said the increase in tuition would not be used frivolously.
"We have huge needs that could soak up the entire increase," Lovett said. "This is never a particularly happy time."
ASU President Lattie Coor said the presidents had to determine what size of an increase would keep the universities at a level that would allow all of their current operations to function.
"How much is necessary to ensure we continue to serve our responsibilities?" Coor asked.
"We don't come by these figures lightly," Coor added.
One of the primary concerns of the university presidents has been how the additional tuition funds would be spent.
The state university presidents said teacher salaries, increasing technology, and building renovations need the additional funds.
"We're seeing the consequences of having limited capacity to raise salaries," Coor said. "It puts a bigger spotlight on the tuition side."
Regent Christina Palacios, at her first meeting as a voting member, said she has studied the university presidents' numbers and said they corresponded to the needs of the universities.
"The best I can tell there is no padding here," Palacios said. "It's a real amount that they really need."
Gignac said the proposed increases were an attempt to keep the universities from falling farther behind peer institutions.
"We're trying desperately to keep the level of quality from dropping," Gignac said.
Likins said he was disappointed last year when tuition was raised again.
"With regret, I turn to incremental tuition increase," Likins said.
While the students were successful in lowering the increase from the original $100 proposal, ASUA President Cisco Aguilar said he doesn't consider it a victory.
"It's a difficult situation, of course I like to see the students pay less," Aguilar said. "I think this is a lose-lose for everyone."