By Keren G. Raz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday January 28, 2003
University administrators have already warned students to prepare for a substantial tuition hike that they say the university needs in order to survive financially.
Now they're worried that a tuition increase may not be as effective as they were expecting.
Although Gov. Janet Napolitano's budget proposal, released early last week, protects the three state universities from funding cuts, administrators and regents are worried that Republican legislators may release a counter-proposal this week that reduces university funding.
"I'm very concerned," Napolitano said. "We have to be very cognizant that the Republicans might be looking in many different places to cure the general fund deficit."
There have been rumors that Republican legislators want to reduce university funding, said Greg Fahey, associate vice president of government relations.
"I'm worried some legislators might succumb to the temptation of taking tuition dollars," he said.
University presidents and regents have been pushing for a substantial tuition hike with the expectation that a portion of the money would go toward financial aid.
Jack Jewett, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, has said that students may have to pay between $500 and $1,000 more for tuition.
There's always a concern that legislators may want to take this money to reduce their deficit, Jewett said. Typically, tuition revenue goes to the legislature's general fund, and then the legislators appropriate the money to the universities.
But if the Republican legislators decide to reduce the amount of money the universities receive from the general fund, any money generated by a tuition increase will be appropriated for something else, said Dick Roberts, assistant vice president of the budget office. In the end, students pay a "special use tax" because they have to give more money to the legislature in the form of tuition that funds other state programs rather than the universities, Roberts said.
Because legislators have to deal with a $1 billion deficit, Republicans may want to reduce the university budgets even more than they already have in the past, said Democratic senator Marsha Arzberger.
"I know the chair of appropriations in the house has advocated cuts to the university," she said.
Russell Pearce, the chair of the appropriations committee, was unavailable for comment.
According to a document released yesterday by the regents and the three universities, the legislature appropriated the universities about $800 million in April 2001.
Since then, legislative and executive decisions have reduced the appropriations by $194 million, the document stated.
"The university budget is such a big item, that there are going to be all kinds of discussions and negotiations," Arzberger said. "I'm very worried about it."
I'm worried some legislators might succumb to the temptation of taking tuition dollars
A series of cuts over the past two years have forced UA to reduce its budget by $44 million. Administrators have warned that an additional cut may cause permanent damage, so this week Likins and Fahey are spending time in Phoenix, lobbying the legislature to protect the university budgets.
"It is unprincipled for that legislature which is unwilling to tax the people to take that stand," Likins said. "Unprincipled · that's a harsh word and I mean it."
But even if legislators do release a budget proposal that calls for further reductions in university funding, Likins said that he will not change the tuition requests that he will announce Monday.
"It would be just tragic if that became a reason to fail to act," he said.
Last year student lobbyists asked for a zero percent increase, partially because they were concerned that the legislature would keep the tuition to help pay down the deficit, said Jenny Rimsza, a former UA student lobbyist.
Unlike last year, legislative budgets and rumors won't influence the student lobbyists' tuition proposals this year, said Doug Hartz, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.
On Friday Hartz said that he will not advocate a zero percent tuition increase again.
Jeff Sklar contributed to this report.