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College costs out of reach for many students

By Marc Viscardi
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday Jan. 16, 2002

Seventeen percent of Arizona's public institutions too expensive for low-income students

For students from low-income families, college education in Arizona is not affordable, a new study indicates.

The study, conducted by the Lumina Foundation for Education, found that Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky and Wyoming are the only states in which all public universities are affordable for low-income students.

Although Arizona tuition is the second lowest in the nation - only Florida's costs are lower - the cost of an education includes other aspects like housing and books.

In Arizona, 17 percent of the colleges are too expensive for low-income students dependent on parental income, according to the study.

While the Arizona resident pays around $2,700 a year in tuition, the costs of that student's education may exceed $10,000, said Arizona Board of Regents President Kay McKay.

In addition, McKay said rising tuition is a stress point for many students, and tuition is likely to grow higher.

"This year, there will probably be a tuition increase," she said. "It's just necessary. The costs of education are mounting."

McKay said the tuition a student pays is not nearly as much as it costs for them to be educated.

A state law requires that universities provide residents with instruction as close to free as possible, McKay said.

Education freshman Mandy Walsh said she has long felt this hardship while attending the University of Arizona.

"It is a definite struggle for me to come to school here," she said.

Walsh's family, which lives in Vail, Ariz., supports itself on Social Security payments. Mandy's parents are divorced, her father pays no alimony or child support and her mother is unable to work, due to a work-related injury she sustained nearly 20 years ago.

Walsh began working at age 14 and now works 32 hours-a-week while taking 13 credit hours a semester.

Walsh has received scholarships and loans, but she said she must continue to work in order to pay for room and board.

"If it weren't for my scholarships and financial aid, I definitely would not be here," she said.

McKay said many things are being done to make college affordable for students like Walsh.

McKay pointed to Arizona programs such as the Pipeline program at Northern Arizona University. This allows 20 first-generation college students to attend NAU on scholarship each year.

McKay also stressed admissions policies at Arizona public institutions. She said the admissions criteria is as inclusive as possible while still maintaining a high standard for academics.

The study included ratings of nearly 3,000 colleges and universities. Calculations were based on 1998 federal statistics on income, enrollment and financial aid.


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