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Big tuition hike probable under new regents

By Keren G. Raz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday November 12, 2002

President Pete Likins may have the votes he needs on the Arizona Board of Regents to raise tuition by as much as $3,600 next year, instead of just keeping pace with inflation.

After intense debates last year, the regents split 6-5 over how much to raise tuition.

Six regents, including current Regent President Jack Jewett, voted last year to raise tuition 4 percent $96 in order to cover inflation. Likins had hoped for a 12.4 percent, or $300, increase.

The other five regents voted against the 4 percent proposal in favor of a bigger increase.

But between a new attitude and new voices on the board this year, last year's 6-5 vote could change, meaning tuition could go up by hundreds of dollars for in-state students.

Although Regent Jack Jewett voted against a substantial tuition increase last year, he said that he is looking at tuition differently this year.

"This year, we're dealing with how we can make the universities more affordable," he said. "It is possible that the universities are heading in a direction of increased tuition with increased financial aid."

Student Regent Myrina Robinson, Superintendent Jaime Molera and Governor Jane D. Hull, who voted for the smaller 4 percent increase, will not be voting members of the board when tuition is set next year.

Governor-elect Janet Napolitano said in an interview last month she was open to raising tuition.

Tom Horne, the newly elected superintendent of public instruction for Arizona, said last month that he was not in favor of raising tuition but that his mind is open to the idea.

Student Regent Matthew Meaker, who has replaced Robinson as the voting student regent, said he thinks it's likely there will be some form of a tuition increase this year.

Likins wants to see in-state tuition increase by $1,100 to $3,600, which is the cost of tuition at the one-third percentile.

"The true nature of the dialogue among regents and between regents and presidents is different this year. There is more reception for significant tuition increases this year," Likins said last week.

He said he was unsure whether he would ask for a $1,100 increase this year or over the next few years.

"While it is too early to tell (exactly) what action the board of regents will ultimately take in April, I feel a tuition increase is inevitable and necessary," said Regent Fred Boice.

As part of the formula for considering how much to increase tuition, the regents want to ensure that there is enough financial aid for the most needy in order to make the universities more affordable.

"We're looking at a financial aid program for the most needy, Pell Grant eligible," Jewett said.

Although Arizona has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country, it has been ranked as one of the least affordable. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave Arizona a D- in affordability in its biennial report card.

"We can't increase tuition unless we can increase financial aid dramatically," Likins said.

Unlike most states and universities, the state of Arizona doesn't have a financial aid grant program to help out those students who need aid the most.

"We don't give any (grants). Other states have the equivalent of a federal Pell Grant, or the institutions themselves provide for grants either out of their operating budgets or set aside from tuition," said regents spokesman Matt Ortega.

Nearly 25,000 students received a total of $231.8 million in aid that included scholarships, loans, work-study aid, waivers and grants in 2000-2001, according to the UA Fact Book.

Of the $231.8 million in aid given to UA students, $98.1 consisted of loans.

"We do not want students to have a deeper reliance on loans," Likins said.

Likins and the regents want to persuade the Legislature this year to institute a state-based financial aid program, Jewett said.

Arizona has the weakest state-based financial aid program in the country, giving out under $2 million per year for public universities to share, he said.

Arizona's state grant aid is about two percent of what the federal government provides in grant aid, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The states that the center rates the highest give aid of 108 percent of what federal grants provide.

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