Commission builds case for students

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Although fees for individual courses can be covered by financial aid, many students are not aware of that option.

The Campbell Commission wants to change that.

The commission decided Thursday that the universities' financial aid offices need to advertise to students that course fees can be included in financial aid awards, said Ben Driggs, the University of Arizona director of the Arizona Students' Association. ASA is a student association that lobbies for student needs with the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona Legislature.

The Campbell Commission, which is comprised of the three state university presidents, the three student body presidents and three members of the Arizona Board of Regents, meets monthly this semester and will make recommendations about tuition and financial aid issues to the regents in December.

Driggs said the commission's decision will help students, since most students are not aware that they can petition to have course fees covered by their financial aid, Driggs said.

"We want students to be properly informed about what they can appeal for and what they have to do to make an appeal," he said.

Currently, students enrolled in about 130 art, chemistry, archeology, ecology and other classes at the UA are required to pay fees ranging from $15 to $260. Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University also have similar fees.

Regent John Munger, who serves on the committee, said although he agreed with the commission's decision, he thinks students do know about the appeals process.

"Since we have about 6,500 (financial aid) appeals per year, it shows that students do know about the process or at least that the information is available to students who want it," Munger said.

Many courses also have course-related fees that are not paid to the university but are required for the class, Driggs said. Course-related fees include production costs for media arts assignments, film for photography classes and computer programs that are required for various classes.

The commission asked the financial aid offices to inventory these class-related fees, which students will also be able to petition for financial aid to cover these fees, he said.

Also, before tuition is set each year, the cost of attendance, including percent change from the previous year, will be presented to the board of regents, the commission decided.

Driggs said this is another victory for students' interests, since the regents will be aware of the full impact any increase in tuition will have on students.

"Tuition is not the only thing that increases each year," Driggs said. "The regents need to know the whole picture before they raise tuition."

The commission also standardized the procedure used to determine the cost of attendance at the three state universities. The cost of attendance, which is used to determine need-based financial aid awards, includes tuition and fees, books, room and board, transportation and miscellaneous costs.

Associated Students President T.J. Trujillo said the standardization will make it easier to distribute need-based aid fairly.

"If we are to distribute financial aid money equitably, we need to have a common framework of what costs are to be included," he said.

Munger said he agreed the change would make the process more fair.

"It will standardize how we treat the universities and how we treat the students at the different universities," he said.

As part of the standardization process, ASU adopted a "self-supporting" category for all students 24 years or older or anyone who can prove by federal guidelines that they are financially independent, Driggs said.

Other categories used to determine cost of attendance include off-campus residents, on-campus residents, and non-residents in each category.

As part of the compromise, the UA agreed to include the cost of health insurance in financial aid awards only for self-supporting students, Trujillo said. Other students who are not covered by their parents' insurance can appeal for additional aid, Driggs said.

Munger said the meeting was much more productive than past meetings.

"We now have a better feel for what sources of financial aid we have to work with and have a better consensus of student costs," he said.

The commission has not addressed tuition issues, but plans to focus on tuition in the November meeting, Driggs said.

Munger said the commission will encourage a leveled tuition increase, so tuition increases will come in manageable, predictable units.

Munger also said the commission will decide how to prioritize dividing financial aid money between graduate and undergraduate students, residents and non-residents and merit or need-based awards.

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