By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Whose responsibility is it to pay for higher education?
Students say they should have to pay as little as possible, but at the same time the state government and parents are contributing less, according to the Arizona Board of Regents.
Governor Fife Symington, R-Ariz., and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee recommended a $14 million to $16 million increase for the state universities, but the universities are receiving proportionately less than in the past.
Up to 19 percent of the state budget had been given to the universities during the past five years, but this year the universities received only about 13.7 percent.
"There is fair growth for the universities in these budgets, but not as much as for the rest of the government," said Regent Andy Hurwitz.
For example, the department of corrections received a $35 million increase.
Many regents believe that student tuition must pay for what the state budget doesn't.
"The cost of educating a student is $8,000 and students only pay about $1,900, so $6,100 has to come from somewhere else," Hurwitz said. If the state does not cover that amount, students will need to pay more, he said.
"I agree tuition should be free, but we have to rely on tuition for some portion of paying our bills," he said.
But students disagree that they
should be responsible for picking up the slack.
"Students are the least able to afford an increase," said Paul Allvin, executive director of the Arizona Students' Association. "The legislature has a budget surplus and you will be hard pressed to find a student with two extra nickels to rub together."
About 15 students from the state universities agreed with Allvin and related stories about financial hardships causing them live on a diet of instant noodles, a wardrobe of $5 shirts from Nogales, working three part-time jobs and photocopying textbooks to avoid having to pay the high prices, which they cannot afford.
Barbara Chester, NAU student president, said the state rather than the students should pay for higher education.
"The U.S. has shifted the burden of higher education to the students themselves," she said. "Many fiscally pressed legislatures have been forced to raise tuition, but this year with the budget surplus, we hope to swing back the pendulum to full funding of education."
Regent Doug Wall said he agreed.
"Education should be funded from the entire population and be as near free as possible (for students)," he said. "Tuition equals tax; we are taxing the parents and the students."
Representatives for the governor and the JLBC cited the state universities' low price when compared to other states.
The Arizona constitution mandates that higher education should be "as close to free as possible." Resident tuition must be in the bottom third of all state colleges nationally. Non-resident tuition must stay below the national median.
Currently, resident tuition is eighth lowest among the fifty states and could increase by $662 and still remain in the lowest third. Non-resident tuition could increase $1,760.
Regents are only estimating an increase of 3 to 5 percent for next year's tuition.
Tuition is currently $1,894 for residents and $7,500 for non-residents. A 3 percent increase would increase tuition by $57 for residents and $225 for non-residents. A 5 percent increase would add $95 to resident tuition and $375 to non-resident tuition.
"In general these are not expensive places to go," Hurwitz said.
But Wall said the comparison is unrealistic because it does not take into account the state philosophy of offering higher education as free as possible.
"When we compare tuition to that of other schools, we should compare to states who also mandate tuition to be as virtually free as possible," Wall said.
The struggle between the state and the students is worsened by the increasing lack of parental support, students and regents said.
"Some students get help from parents and some don't; those are the ones who take five or six years to graduate," said Kolby Granville, a ASU education junior. "A lot of parents don't set aside money and people wonder why we don't graduate in four years."
"Students have told us stories about how they have to live in college because their families don't help them," said Regent John Munger. "Society has a problem if that is how parents treat their children."
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