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Administrators brace for tuition battle

By Cyndy Cole
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday Feb. 6, 2002

Students say hike would make education too expensive for middle-income families

Administrators and student lobbyists are preparing to go to the mat over next year's tuition rate, as high-ranking university officials say a large increase is overdue.

The debate centers around how much a University of Arizona education should cost, increasing financial aid and the actual destination of tuition money.

Although Arizona has the second-lowest tuition in the United States, a recent report by the Lumina Foundation for Education found that 17 percent of Arizona universities are still unaffordable for lower-income students who are dependent upon their parents' income, once costs like housing and books are factored in.

If lower-income students cannot afford a university education, regardless of whether tuition is kept as low as possible, there's no reason to keep tuition low, Faculty Senate Chair Jory Hancock said Monday.

University of Arizona President Peter Likins wants to increase tuition over a number of years, including next fall, to make UA more competitive academically with other universities nationwide.

"We need to convince the regents that tuition must go up substantially and financial aid with it," Likins said during Monday's Faculty Senate meeting.

Likins believes a "substantial" tuition increase would be at least 10 percent, with in-state students picking up a considerable part of the tab, Arizona Students' Association Director Jenny Rimsza said.

Student lobbyists have said the price tag on a year at UA is much too high now - especially for middle to lower-income students - and that tuition should not increase because it is impossible to track whether tuition dollars end up benefiting students.

Tuition for in-state students is up nearly $500 - or 24 percent - from five years ago, according to the University of Arizona Fact Book. Total financial aid has risen more than 30 percent during the same period but has been split between 2,000 more students as enrollment has grown.

But raising tuition puts a substantial burden on middle-class students whose parents are in debt before their children begin college, said student regent Myrina Robinson at last week's Arizona Board of Regents meeting.

Raising tuition could mean squeezing middle-income students into the lower-income bracket for financial aid, increasing the number of students who need aid for college.

Rimsza's biggest beef is that even the most talented accountant would have a hard time tracking tuition dollars after students send their checks to the Administration building.

Approximately 70 cents out every tuition dollar goes to the Legislature. From there, money is subtracted and state funds are added back in. The amount the Legislature gives back to the University in the end is called the state's appropriation to UA, even though some of the money started at the university, Rimsza said.

"We can't justify raising tuition, because we can't tell students where it's going, and that's not fair," Rimsza said.

Approximately 9 cents of every tuition dollar stays at the university, funding financial aid.

Lately, state lawmakers have talked about taking tuition money to help fix a statewide budget deficit and returning only half to Arizona universities.

Taking tuition and not returning it amounts to a tax on education, Dick Roberts, assistant vice president and budget director, has said.

The regents began talks last week on the rules they will use to set tuition, concluding that tuition waivers for all UA students should be handed out on a much more flexible basis than they are now.

Last year, some tuition waivers for non-resident students went unused because they could not be converted into tuition waivers for resident students, said non-voting student regent Matthew Meaker.

The regents also put preference for awarding financial aid to in-state students who have financial need, as opposed to non-resident students, or those with higher grades and SAT scores. Regents will set tuition during a meeting at Northern Arizona University April 25 and 26.


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