ABOR pledges to work with students on tuition
State money could keep rates low, regents say
FLAGSTAFF-Following ABOR's Thursday approval of an $84 increase in next year's in-state tuition, several regents proposed working with students to make changes in the state Legislature in an attempt to halt the trend of rising tuition.
"We need to join forces," said Hank Amos, Arizona Board of Regents president. "They're (Arizona public universities) not the same institutions they were before."
"I'm starting to see the result of our inadequacy," he added.
After a long tuition discussion during the first day of ABOR's meeting at Northern Arizona University, some regents and university presidents Friday expressed remorse for passing an increase.
"I felt very bad last year (when tuition was raised)," said University of Arizona President Peter Likins. "We simply cannot compete in the marketplace."
Regent Christine Thompson said she doesn't think it is right that university funding be put on the students' backs.
"We should not be putting this on the backs of students, they're taxpayers," said Thompson, a UA law student.
While both ABOR and the universities have lobbyists at the Arizona Legislature, students - mostly members of Arizona Students Association - must lobby the Legislature themselves.
Students went to the Legislature to lobby for a bill that created a second student regent and one that was to increase financial aid. The first one was put into effect by Gov. Jane Hull, but the second never got out of committee.
ASA also lobbied against bills sponsored by state Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, that could have forced the state universities to install Internet filters on all state-owned computers and would have put restrictions on coed dorms.
"I was very impressed with the movement the students have made," said Regent Kay McKay.
Other regents said they agreed that the students were having a greater impact because of increased involvement.
"I've seen students more fully engaging their brains in this process," said Regent Jack Jewett.
Jerry Hogle, UA faculty chair, said he thinks the university system should not be trying to change the current legislators' minds about university funding.
"We're hoping we can get some different legislators elected," Hogle said.
The original tuition increase proposed by the university presidents called for a $100 hike, which would have brought more than $3 million to the universities.
The regents' negotiation with students to raise tuition only $84 cost each university more than $500,000.
Likins said that even with a $100 increase, the UA would not be able to adequately pay its current faculty and would continue to fall behind its peers.
Amos said this is problem that cannot be solved by small incremental tuition increases.
"We all know here the need is far greater (than what is provided)," Amos said. "Where is the gap going to be funded?"
If the regents are forced to continually raise tuition in small increments the universities will level of instruction at the institutions will degrade, Regent Judy Gignac said.
"The quality, at some point, is going to decrease," said Gignac. "Next year, at this time I will not vote for $84 (tuition increase)."
Without increased financial support from the Legislature, a substantial tuition increase may be implemented by the regents.
"That's always a fear," said Cisco Aguilar, ASUA president. "The plan should focus on going to the Legislature."
While Aguilar said that he is encouraged by ABOR's interest in working with the students, he is not sure whether they will follow through.
"I've heard those words before," Aguilar said. "I would hope they would stick to their word and act on it."
If ABOR and student organizations do begin a campaign to bring about change in the Legislature, Aguilar said a lot of that change can be accomplished by student voters.
"The students have a responsibility to start voting," Aguilar said. "The students always argue 'keep our tuition low,' but we have to walk the walk and vote."
Regent Don Ulrich said no matter what happens between students and regents, dealing with tuition and the legislature are always hard.
"Its a terrifying process for everyone," Ulrich said.