Likins to release tuition plan today

By Jeff Sklar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday February 2, 2004

$500 hike likely for in-state undergrads; student lobbyists to propose less

President Peter Likins will officially release today his proposal for next year's tuition, a plan he has repeatedly said would be highlighted by a $500 hike for resident undergraduates.

The proposal will also include recommendations for non-resident and graduate tuition, though Likins has declined to release those numbers before today.

If proposed and approved, the $500 hike would raise resident undergraduate tuition to $4,008.

Likins announced the $500 proposal over winter break, but wouldn't say Friday how large an increase he would propose for nonresidents and graduate students.

Last year, when he called for a $1,000 resident undergraduate increase, Likins asked for a $1,250 increase for nonresident undergraduates and resident graduate students, and a $1,500 increase for out-of-state graduate students.

Student lobbyists today will also release their tuition counterproposal, and though they wouldn't say yesterday what it would be, they promised a lower number than $500.

They hope their proposal would lay the foundation for a more gradual series of tuition increases that would put less of an immediate stress on students' pocketbooks.

"We didn't want to overburden the students this year," said lobbyist Nick Green.

Likins' proposal would drive the UA's tuition to the 33rd percentile nationally, a benchmark he'd like to see the university keep pace with in the future. He thinks that level is fair because it's still below average, though not so low that it unreasonably limits income.

But in a meeting with Wildcat staff Friday, Likins also said he wasn't overly concerned whether the board of regents accepts his $500 proposal this year, saying he's far more concerned about reaching the 33rd percentile in the long run.

"We're going to get there," he said, "long before I retire from this place."

Likins has said he would retire in 2006.

ASUA President J.P. Benedict said the lobbyists' plan attempts to protect students from two consecutive large tuition increases, by calling for regents to reach the 33rd percentile more gradually.

They decided on their proposal after talking with students, sending out surveys and discussing tuition with focus groups.

"They didn't want a huge tuition increase and then nothing next year," Green said. "They wanted consistency so they can plan to save for college."

Benedict said he was confident that lobbyists next year would share his sentiments toward tuition, and he hopes they would continue his push to reach the 33rd percentile.

"I'm pretty confident whoever's in charge next year will look at it the same way," he said.

Whatever regents decide to charge next year, at least 14 percent of the revenue generated from tuition will go toward financial aid, much of it for federal Pell Grant recipients - the needy students who regents have emphasized protecting.

John Nametz, director of the financial aid office, said recently that 11,000 UA undergraduates were protected from the hike this year, and that the university is equipped to protect them again if tuition rises $400 to $500.

But Likins on Friday also said he wasn't sure how the UA would chip away at the pool of unmet need, which is money that would cover financial aid for students not poor enough to qualify for federal Pell Grants.

About $2.6 million was diverted from tuition revenue last year to decrease unmet need, but Likins acknowledged that many "students who really need money" still aren't getting it.

The concept of diverting tuition revenue to cover financial aid convinced some regents last year to support larger increases.

But the notion of tuition money paying for financial aid doesn't sit well with some students.

John Kromko, a UA student and former legislator who filed a lawsuit against the regents and the state last year because large tuition hikes were "unconstitutional," said using tuition for financial aid was "flat-out evil." The state Legislature should take responsibility for providing financial aid, he said.

"I have to pay my tuition and then I have to pay part of somebody else's tuition," Kromko said.

This year will also likely mark the first year the presidents of the three state universities propose different tuition hikes for their respective universities.

Friday, Likins said for the first time he didn't know what his colleagues at ASU and NAU would propose.

But he said he welcomed the possibility that regents would allow the three universities to charge different amounts as their missions diverge.

"The regents are right to recognize that our situations are different," he said.

Chris Herstam, president of the board of regents, warned at the board's last meeting that each president would likely propose different increases, and that regents would have to consider them separately, rather than as a single package as they have done in the past.

Regents will host an open forum on Feb. 25, where students and other community members will be allowed to speak publicly about their feelings on tuition.