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Hike may increase graduate dropouts

By Tacie Holyoak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 27, 2003

The results of a graduate student survey distributed early this month are in, just in time to be presented to the Arizona Board of Regents at today's tuition hearing.

The numbers show that 11 percent of 500 students surveyed are considering dropping out if tuition is raised 5 percent temporarily and 6 percent permanently. Forty percent said they will drop the number of semester units they take.

Based on the survey results, 550 to 600 of UA's 8,000 graduate students could permanently drop out, said Pete Morris, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council.

"That's a hell of a lot of money for the university to lose," Morris said at Tuesday's GPSC meeting.

When so many students drop out, he added, the university loses money that could be set aside for need-based financial aid.

A GPSC proposal released Tuesday asked the administration for $700,000 to cover the costs of need-based aid, an amount Morris believes will completely protect those who may need to drop out.

The proposal states that GPSC cannot support President Pete Likin's proposed tuition increases until a commitment to meet graduate student needs has been met.

Included in the proposal is a request to protect all graduate assistants, teaching assistants and research assistants from the tuition increases.

The GPSC also asked for a commitment from the administration to explore a more than 50 percent tuition remission for GAs, and to set aside 10 percent of graduate student tuition for permanent graduate need-based aid.

"It looks like the money to cover the deal is available," Morris said. "(We're) pretty close to an agreement on the issue."

If the administration accepts the proposal, it could help students who are looking at alternative ways to stay in school.

"(A tuition hike) means more student loans," said Heather Johnson, a second-year graduate student in the School of Renewable and Natural Resources.

Johnson said paying more for tuition will not be easy, but that with an additional loan, she would be able to continue her education.

For Terry Hurford, a fifth-year planetary sciences graduate student, the tuition hikes have caused him to consider a change of plan.

Hurford currently works as an RA, but he believes that the only way he won't be affected by Likin's tuition proposal is to become a TA.

"Though I'd rather be working on my research I don't want to pay the extra money," Hurford said.

For others, becoming a TA is not feasible. Not all programs can offer every applicant a position, and even if they could, for many the job may not be enough to support themselves.

Paul Greenberg, a fifth-year psychology graduate student, said that he thinks the university's TA funding is bad, and if his RA grant renewal doesn't come through in three months, he'll have to look for a new job.

"(I'd have to) work odd hours during the day or evening," he said. "I spend enough hours researching to have to get another job."

The GPSC hopes to see its proposal, which would help alleviate many of the graduate students' concerns, approved and presented at the tuition hearing.

"This plan is as good as we think we can get," Morris said at Tuesday's meeting. "We're playing our cards well so far."

The results of the survey will also hopefully carry weight with the regents.

"(We're trying to emphasize) the importance of graduate students and graduate education," Morris said. "That's what we want to go to the regents with."

Tonight's tuition hearing will be broadcast from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Harvill building, Room 203, and on Cox Cable 76.

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