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Thursday March 29, 2001

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Tuition concerns can be brought straight to the top

Headline Photo

By Kevin Clerici

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a three-part series on tuition issues culminating with tonight's open forum.

Regents, Likins willing to open dialogues with students over costs

His office sits seven stories high, and there is a good chance students have never seen him, but the man with their tuition money - UA President Peter Likins - is listening.

Last year's tuition hearings got so ugly that all sides - student representatives, the regents, the three state university presidents - came away exasperated and vowed to increase talks months ahead of time. Collaboration, they agreed, was the key.

"I remember regent Judy Gignac saying, 'I will not do this again,'" Likins said. "The process was so stressful. The students were frustrated. The presidents felt they were appropriate. There had to be change."

For Likins, that meant more student input. The university will always need more money. As enrollment grows and campus expands, tuition must rise to meet the demand.

"What (the presidents) understand is that students want a voice in where their money is spent," Likins said. "We talk about how we want to add new technology, but we can't answer those questions, only students can."

So what can students do?

"Students typically underestimate the pull they have," said student regent Mary Echeverria, an Arizona State University senior who possesses one of the Board's nine votes. "Student concerns appeal to the regents. There are so many strong stories that the regents need to know."

For starters, students can speak directly to the regents. "They can call them if they want. Students seem to forget that," Echeverria said.

Or, on April 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the tuition hearings will be held at 13 sites simultaneously - at UA, they are in Harvill, Room 211 - via interactive television. Any student - from freshmen to doctoral candidates - can explain how tuition affects them and why a significant increase may be financial challenge.

Another route is to address the three student lobbyists at tonight's forum who, in turn, will communicate with the president. The group has held off on its recommendation to the regent awaiting tonight's outcome.

"We want to hear student priorities, and we want students to understand how we can help them," said Ray Quintero, Arizona Students Association director. "Unlike year's past, Dr. Likins is anticipating our feedback."

ASA wants Likins to go a step further and agree to strides that will hold him accountable.

"I expect ASA to speak with some clarities on where the priorities lie," he said. "The administration wants to work with students - that sometimes doesn't register with students."

Monday, Likins recommended $200 and $500 increases for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively.

These increases would provide more than $6.6 million to the university's general fund for next year if enrollments remain constant.

Likins proposed the revenues be used for six priorities - information technology, advising and mentoring programs, graduate teaching assistant support, faculty and staff salaries, financial aid and debt service for new facilities.

Students with other suggestions can be heard - the purpose of tonight's forum is to educate students on tuition issues - but the reality is that not all of them will come to fruition.

ASA's hope is that students will leave the forum with a better understanding of the process so they will be prepared if they choose to address the regents on April 5.

"An educated voice is a powerful voice," ASUA President Ben Graff said. "The regents won't react positively to complaining voices."

The only thing left before the regent hearing is the release of the student recommendation.

The regents, ASA lobbyists and Likins and have opened channels of communication. Now it's up to students.

"Students should speak up so they can see a return on their investment," said Paul Peterson, ASA Executive Director. "So they can say, 'This increase really did go to something that I can benefit from.'"

On Monday, the president recommended $200 and $500 increases for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. The tuition hike would provide more than $6.6 million to the university's general fund for next year if enrollments remain constant. Likins proposed the revenues be used for six priorities:

Information technology

Advising and mentoring programs

Graduate teaching assistant support

Faculty and staff salaries

Financial aid

Debt service for new facilities.

Tuition Forum

The Arizona Daily Wildcat will moderate a forum on the issue of tuition tonight at 7 p.m. in Harvill, Room 150. Not only can students and others from the UA community participate in an open dialogue on the tuition process and learn where the dollars are going, but students can offer suggestions of where they want their tuition money spent. Panel members include ASUA President Ben Graff; ASA Directors Sam Chang, Kelly Dalton and Ray Quintero; ABOR student Regent Mary Echiverria; ASA Executive Director Paul Peterson and former student Regent Christine Thompson.