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Wednesday October 25, 2000

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Study shows UA tuition one of lowest in nation

By Stephanie Corns

Arizona Daily Wildcat

College Board report reveals nationwide trend of rising costs are outstripping inflation

Despite student complaints about rising tuition costs, the tab at the UA is one of the lowest in the country.

A College Board report released last week shows that the average in-state annual tuition at four-year public institutions has risen to more than $3,500. In-state tuition at the UA, though, was only $2,348 this year - an increase of 3.7 percent.

Last year, tuition was $2,264, a 4.9 percent increase from the 1998-1999 school year. This year's rate increased $84 from last year.

"Arizona's kept it (tuition) lower than just about any other state," said John Nametz, director of financial aid at the University of Arizona.

Compared to other American Association of Universities institutions, the UA has the second-lowest tuition rate. The University of Florida boasted the lowest with $2,141, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ranked the highest at $6,735.

The report shows that tuition at colleges in the western states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming - is the lowest in the country, averaging $2,747 at four-year public schools. Tuition at schools in New England ranked highest in the survey of more than 3,000 colleges, with an average of $4,748.

Last year, the Consumer Price Index rose 2.7 percent, while tuition rates rose 4.9 percent at the UA and 5 percent nationwide, outstripping inflation. Consumer prices have risen 3.5 percent as of August.

With the price tag on higher education going up each year, students are taking out record amounts of financial aid.

Last year, loans made up 59 percent of the $68 billion given out in financial aid nationwide. A decade ago, loans made up just over 41 percent of student financial aid.

At the UA, 12,250 students borrowed $96,885,664 in loans last year - an increase of more than 350 percent since 1990. A decade ago, the total amount of financial aid awarded to students amounted to just over $96 million.

Regardless of the increase in need, next year's tuition rates may not reflect what students are able to pay, said Kelly Dalton, Arizona Students Association director

The Arizona Board of Regents has requested slightly more than $1 billion from the state to offset rising tuition costs, but Dalton said whether the university system will receive that much is still up in the air.

November's election results will play a large role in determining next year's costs, Dalton said, including the outcome of Proposition 301, which would fund education programs, university research and teacher salaries through a 0.6 percent tax hike.

While the proposition seems beneficial to students, it could hurt them in the long run, Dalton said.

"Legislators could say 'now you have an additional source of funding so we don't have to give you as much,'" she said.

Regardless of election results, ASA thinks students should not have to pick up the slack for state and school funding, Dalton said.

"Budgetary shortfalls should not fall on the students' backs," Dalton said.

The College Board's figures reflect the costs for 6.4 million full-time undergraduates - 54 percent attending four-year public institutions, 27 percent at four-year private schools, 17 percent at two-year community colleges and 1 percent at two-year private schools.

The College Board is a non-profit organization that administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test.