Editorial: Compromise needed for tuition solutions
Arizona Board of Regents and state college students proved on Thursday that compromise is possible.
Finally, the two groups agreed on a $84 tuition increase, a $16 decrease from UA President Peter Likins' original proposal.
On the first day they met, Arizona college students had an opportunity to address the regents meeting in Flagstaff. Students spoke out about the unreasonable tuition hike, and ABOR responded.
While it is unfortunate that tuition had to be raised at all, it is impressive that all three university presidents responded to the opinions of their student bodies. It is a continuing struggle to keep Arizona university tuition as low as possible, and the students are the key force behind keeping this fight alive.
Even ASUA President Cisco Aguilar considers the decision a lose-lose situation, saying, "It's a difficult situation, and of course I'd like to see students pay less," his active involvement in the issue is impressive.
NAU Student Body President Paul Peterson also spoke out for keeping tuition low, and pointed out that ABOR probably made its decision to increase tuition before students had the chance to speak out against it.
He also pointed out that the tuition increase ought to be enforced with the guarantee that students will benefit from it.
"The 4.6 percent (increase) is more than a prudent request," Peterson said. "We haven't seen the return on the investment."
If the state university presidents want to increase tuition, students ought to expect benefits in return. Given that the state constitution requires "as free an education as possible," the universities ought to have a truly good reason for raising tuition.
One reason ABOR wanted to raise tuition was to compete with more prestigious universities.
"We're trying desperately to keep the level of quality from dropping," said Regent Judy Gignac.
But one of the most impressive parts about Arizona university education is that, because of its traditionally low tuition rates, more students across the state are able to attain a higher education.
Aside from keeping tuition low, the universities need to make increasing professor salaries a priority. If the $84 tuition increase that will take effect for UA students next year is not sufficient for increasing professor salaries, the university must make an effort to find another way to pay their professors more.
Too many quality professors feel compelled to leave the UA because their salaries are too low. Part of President Likins' goal in increasing tuition was to allocate some of the funds to increasing professors' salaries. While this goal should be pursued separately and should not depend upon increasing tuition, Likins should definitely continue the effort toward raising professors' salaries.
If the UA wants to improve education for its students, it will try to keep tuition as low as possible and at the same time make an effort to keeping quality professors at the UA.