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Likins defends tuition at forum

EMILY REID/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Glyn Bolasky, father of a UA senior and freshman, speaks out at the campus town hall last night on the proposed tuition increase in Modern Languages 350. Likins' proposal would increase tuition by $1,000 for in-state students.
By Jeff Sklar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday February 18, 2003

When Glyn Bolasky decided to send his two daughters to the UA, he felt he was making a deal with the regents to keep tuition increases low throughout their academic careers.

Yesterday, he told top UA administrators and two regents that a proposed $1,000 tuition hike would violate that deal. Bolasky, the father of a senior and a freshman, challenged them to drastically lessen the increase for current students, but leave it high for new students.

"How you're going about your increase is too dramatic, too much at once," Bolasky told President Pete Likins, Provost George Davis, regents' president Jack Jewett and Student Regent Matthew Meaker at a forum yesterday afternoon.

But because tuition in Arizona is the lowest in the nation, and because state funding has dramatically decreased in recent years, an incremental increase would provide too little money for the struggling universities, Jewett said.

Nationwide, states are asking students to shoulder a higher burden for their education while removing some of it from the taxpayers.

"We have a ridiculously low price resulting in resident tuition that provides about 4 percent of the revenue required to run this university. That's bizarre," Likins said. "We've just got it wrong."

Likins has asked the regents to raise next year's tuition by $1,000 for in-state undergraduates, but has promised that about 60 percent of the revenue produced by the hike would go to needy students as financial aid.

That would leave about $13.9 million for other expenses such as faculty salaries and improving class availability, less than half the total budget cut the UA has sustained over the last two years.

Potential uses for that money, as well as the rest of the UA's shrinking budget, dominated the discussion at much of yesterday's forum.

The response from Likins and Davis: We want to do more, but we can't afford to.

It was a message consistent with what they have said for weeks that a tuition increase will not solve the UA's budget problems.

"I cannot deceive you," Likins said. "There is no prospect of using the $13.9 million to improve upon where we were last fall."

Several graduate students asked why the proposed tuition hike protects graduate teaching assistants from paying more, but leaves research assistants vulnerable.

They argued that they didn't understand the disparity, which they said sends a message that research assistants are less valuable than teaching assistants, though researchers help bring money to the university.

"You don't understand it because it's wrong," Likins said. "It's not equitable. What we're doing is not right."

Likins and Davis emphasized that they want to solve the problem, but that it requires long-term planning.

Greg Stoltz, an anthropology research assistant, said many graduate students are worried they may not get a job as a teaching or research assistant. That would mean they couldn't reap tuition remission benefits or get a salary.

"Nothing that I can do guarantees that I get a TA-ship," Stoltz said.

He can't pay the bills this year with his quarter-time assistantship, and has been forced to take a 20-hour per week job at the mall to supplement his income.

"If I don't (get an assistantship) then I guess I'll have to work 40 hours (per) week at the mall," Stoltz said.

Likins said administrators made a decision to protect needy undergraduates and graduate assistants first, and that the choice would likely leave others having to pay a steeper price

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