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Punches keep coming for university

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Summer Wildcat
UA President Pete Likins (right) speaks at a Town Hall meeting as Provost George Davis looks on. Likins released a proposal for a tuition increase after this meeting.
By Mitra Taj
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
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Two consecutive years of record-setting tuition hikes beg the question: Is the UA heading toward a third?

Since 2002-2003, the university has more than doubled tuition rates, at the same time almost doubling the amount of tuition revenue that's set aside for financial aid.

But whether or not the trend will continue isn't clear.

UA President Peter Likins said it's too early to plan tuition rates for next year.

"I have no idea what other universities have done with their tuitions so I don't know where we stack up nationally yet," Likins said. "It'll be months before I turn my attention to tuition."

Because the UA tries to peg tuition at the top of the bottom third of peer institutions across the country, an increase nationally could mean an increase locally.

A 10 percent increase could be a possibility.

A study by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities expects tuition at public colleges to grow by about 10 percent on average next year. Last year tuition at public colleges rose by about 14 percent.

At the UA, tuition and mandatory fees increased by 13.7 percent this year and by 39.1 percent the previous year.

UA officials said that years of state budget cuts forced the university to raise tuition. In order to soften the burden on the university's low-income students, the hikes were accompanied by an increase in financial aid.

In 2003-2004, the percent of tuition revenue set aside for financial aid jumped from 8 percent to 14 percent. That meant 40 percent of last year's new money from the tuition hikes went to financial aid.

This year, Likins said he wants 15 percent to go toward financial aid.

Arizona higher ed

A recommendation to the Arizona Board of Regents about whether restructuring the state university system could work will be made next summer.

Until then, much will be said about the proposal.

Since former Arizona Board of Regents President Chris Herstam and the state's three university presidents unveiled the proposal May 23, less than a week after the spring semester ended, the plan has met with praise and criticism.

The proposal would establish three "regional universities" in the state to help existing universities cope with an exploding state population. Unlike the UA and Arizona State University, the regional universities wouldn't offer PhD programs and wouldn't support research, instead focusing on providing the state with cost-effective undergraduate education.

Northern Arizona University would become the flagship regional university, while a combined UA South and NAU Yuma would serve the higher education needs of southern Arizona and ASU West those of Maricopa County.

Because Arizona's population is expected to nearly double in the next 15 years, most agree that a plan is necessary to help the university system accommodate future students.

But others are concerned that making the UA and ASU even more selective would keep traditionally disadvantaged groups from attending the state's prestigious universities.

Some say disadvantaged groups will be more likely to get a four-year education under the proposed system than they are now.

UA administrators said the proposal would allow the UA to come closer to its mission, serving Arizona as a land grant institution by providing the state with quality research and undergraduate education.

Others are concerned the plan would be a step down for NAU and ASU West, resulting in wasted resources and devalued degrees.

Regents have given the public until Aug. 1 to submit alternative proposals to the workgroup, which will begin considering them in January as public meetings on the study begin.

A look at undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees increases since Fiscal Year 2000-2001:
Fiscal YearResidentIncreaseOut-of-stateIncrease
00-01 $2,344 $9,800
01-02 $2,486 $192 $10,352$552
02-03 $2,583 $97 $11,103$751
03-04$3,593 $1,010 $12,363$1,260
04-05 $4,087 $494 $13,067$704

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