UA above average for nationwide tuition increases
While a nationwide College Board study reported that tuition for public universities increased 3.4 percent this year, the UA's tuition increase hovered around 4 percent for in- and out-of-state students.
According to the October study, which surveyed 3,200 higher education institutions, students at four-year public universities are paying $109 more than last year - a 3.4 percent increase. The average cost of tuition is $3,356, up from $3,247 from last year.
At the University of Arizona, however, in-state students are paying $106 more this year - a 4.9 percent increase, while out-of-state students pay $306 more, a 3.4 percent increase. Tuition is $2,264 for in-state students and $9,416 for out-of-state students.
Over the past decade, tuition at the UA has increased 61.8 percent for in-state students and 71.2 percent for out-of-state students.
"In general, tuition has been increasing fairly slowly over the past 10 years," said Greg Fahey, chief UA state lobbyist. "The Board of Regents has a history of being pretty conservative."
The UA's in-state tuition ranks 48th of primary state universities nationwide.
"In the national marketplace, there is clearly room for a higher in-state tuition at Arizona," UA President Peter Likins stated in an e-mail interview.
"We cannot follow sensible economic practices and increase tuition by hundreds of dollars each year until we reach the top of the bottom third or quarter of national universities," Likins stated. "Instead we must stay in the neighborhood of a hundred dollars a year increases, and fall further and further behind our competitors on the national scene."
Tuition rates are established by the Arizona Board of Regents. Regent Chris Herstam said the process for setting tuition is "wide open."
"It's always an emotional issue," he said. "Since I've been a regent, there has never been a unanimous decision."
When considering tuition rates each November, the board holds a public forum at the state's three universities to gather the opinions of students, faculty and taxpayers.
Students' opinions of whether tuition should remain the same or increase were split at last year's meeting. About 50 percent of the students thought tuition should stay the same, while the remaining half wanted to see only cost of living increases, Herstam said.
The regents are limited in how much they can increase tuition, though.
"Arizona is one of the only states that has a constitution that says tuition should be as close to free as possible," Herstam said. "I think it's important that we follow the spirit of the constitution. I think a cost of living increase according to the Consumer Price Index is reasonable, but when you get into increases past the cost of living, it's in violation of the spirit of the constitution. I'm probably in the minority of the regents though."
One state legislator said in-state students are hurt by such low out-of-state rates because those students do not contribute much financially to the university.
"The fact that out-of-state tuition is so low is acting as an impediment to in-state students," said Sen. Randall Gnant, R-Scottsdale. "If I were on the Board of Regents, I would raise out-of-state tuition. (But) I would do it only if that money would go back to Arizona students."
A separate College Board study released simultaneously reported that $64 billion was given out to U.S. college students in financial aid last year - an 85 percent increase over the past decade.
Most of the aid given out was in the form of loans, which accounted for 58 percent of the total - an 18 percent increase from the 1980-1981 school year. The report indicated that tuition on average has nearly doubled, while family incomes have risen about 22 percent.
The amount of loans taken out by UA students, though, dropped by about one percent this year, said John Nametz, director of student financial aid.
About 30 percent of the student body took out loans, totaling $99 million, while another $120 million was given out in other forms of aid including grants and scholarships, he said.