By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Judith Schneider is a senior studying to get an interdisciplinary studies degree, but she is also a mother. Non-traditional students like her often have elderly parents, teenagers and young children to take care of, and paying more for tuition can mean having less to spend on their loved ones.
"A $50 increase, or even a $10 increase, takes food off the table, takes a child out of day care and takes resources away from an elderly parent," she said.
Like Schneider, Mike Najor is a resident of the state, a taxpayer and a graduate student in Near Eastern studies. Although he didn't want to, he had to take last year off in order to earn enough money to pay for the cost of this year's school.
"By continuing to raise tuition you are making a decision about who can attend on financial reasons, rather than on merit," he said.
Najor and Schneider were among the more than 20 students from across the state who spoke to the Arizona Board of Regents and university presidents last night about how a tuition increase would affect them. The board will be setting next year's tuition at their next meeting, April 27-28 at Arizona State University, but scheduled this special hearing to allow more students to talk to the board.
At the January regents meeting, the board focused on the 3 to 5 percent increase, which would raise resident tuition $57 to $95 and non-resident tuition $225 to $375.
But the members of the Arizona Students Association said even this much of a tuition increase is unacceptable and asked for a 0 to 3 percent increase.
"(ASA) realizes that the cost of supporting a university system is enormous and that because the legislature is appropriating fewer dollars ... universities have to find alternative means to fund programs. Generally, these costs are passed on to students through tuition increases," stated executive director Paul Allvin in a written statement. "But with the ... peril of federal financial aid programs, ASA recommends that the Arizona Board of Regents not impose any substantial tuition increase."
The cost of attendance for resident students increased 15.7 percent from 1990-1994, causing the number of students applying for financial aid to increase 30.7 percent during the same time, ASA members argued. And because available financial aid grants are decreasing and loans are increasing, students are drastically increasing their debts.
But at the same time the regents have to
deal with a $586 per student increase in cost of education Ä from $7,105 to $7,691 per student Ä while the state legislature did not increase its appropriation to the universities.
The low priority that the state legislature places on higher education is exactly the problem, students argued Ä and ASUA president T.J. Trujillo said educating students and encouraging them to vote is the solution.
"If we increase voter registration and turnout of students, faculty and staff, if education became a priority in this state, we wouldn't be having these discussions about how to balance the needs of the students and the needs of the university," he said.
Barbara Chester, the Northern Arizona University student body president, said students recognize that tuition increases aimed at improving technology and salary raises would benefit the students, there is a point when students can simply not pay any more.
"A tuition increase for good reasons makes sense but we have to question if the new programs are what the students want or what the administration wants," she said. "There is a threshold when students want an education but have to say I need to work, I need to feed my kids, I need to feed myself."
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