Benefits of setting tuition earlier debated

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students from the three state universities convinced a skeptical Arizona Board of Regents to set tuition three months earlier than scheduled.

The Arizona Students' Association, which is comprised of student delegates from the state universities, asked the regents to set tuition in January rather than in April as planned.

"We want to set tuition earlier," said ASA executive director Paul Allvin. "Students need more time to prepare. In April it is too late to get another summer job (if tuition is raised). School is only a couple months away and students often have to pay for an increase with no way to pay," he said.

University of Arizona ASA delegate Ben Driggs said if tuition is not set until the April 27 board meeting, students will have missed the March 1 priority financial aid deadline by almost two months.

UA President Manuel Pacheco said the university's budget should not be sacrificed at the expense of students' planning.

"I'm concerned that the earlier discussion talked only about student budgets and no one has discussed the universities' budgets," Pacheco said.

"Only after we know what the legislature appropriates could we make a request for what we need. If we guess at tuition in January we will have no basis to make a decision."

Despite criticism from the three university presidents, the board agreed 5-2 to tentatively set tuition in January, with the option of adjusting as necessary after the legislature allocates funds in April. Regents Hank Amos and Doug Wall voted against the proposal. Board President Art Chapa did not vote and Eddie Basha was not present.

However, some of the regents warned the students that if tuition was set before the board knew how much money the universities would get from the state legislature, it could result in higher tuition.

"I'm sympathetic to students' planning, but we can't commit too early because it will hurt you," Amos said. "If the legislature doesn't fund what we request, we will be short and have to come back and tell students we need more money. Students should expect a cost of living tuition increase and plan for a $50 or $60 increase."

Wall said, "I have always been an advocate for low tuition and if we set tuition early it will be awfully difficult for me to argue for a $0 increase.

"If we have to set tuition first (before the legislature sets its budget) I can guarantee you will get something (of an increase),"

Wall said. "If you wait and see what money is available and we get enough money there may be no increase."

Regent Andy Hurwitz, who eventually voted in favor of the proposal, asked students to choose between possibly lower tuition in April or certainty in January.

"In exchange for certainty in January, I guarantee you'll pay more tuition than if you wait until April. Setting tuition early will cause political problems with the legislature; we don't want to put our cards on the table in January. We will have no ability to back off (and lower tuition) after we go to the legislature," Hurwitz said.

But Driggs said the ASA delegates are "not convinced that setting tuition in the fall means higher tuition."

"We have set tuition in the fall for many years and have not had larger tuition increases than in the spring," Driggs said.

The proposal is only effective for this year. ASA delegates said they will encourage the regents to create a "predictable and affordable" managed tuition plan for future years.

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