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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA should embrace affordability

    When President Likins released his tuition proposal last week, it provided a happy surprise for students in favor of free enterprise – differential tuition.

    The plan incorporated an across-the-board increase of $200 for resident undergraduates, a minimal jump given the past three years, during which time in-state tuition skyrocketed by nearly $1,900.

    The increase for nonresident undergraduates, $1,222, was large by comparison – the largest, in fact, since 2003-2004.

    However, tuition increases determined by geography are old news – those determined by major are not.

    On top of base increases in tuition for all undergraduates, Likins proposed doubling the $500 program fee levied by the Eller College of Management and tacking $600 onto the bill for students in the College of Engineering and the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

    Likins explained that the differential increases are designed to keep tuition as low as possible for the majority of students by compensating for the high costs of educating students in business, engineering and architecture. In other words, such increases keep tuition more closely aligned with the costs of education on a per-college basis.

    Many public universities around the country – most notably the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor – already employ differential tuition strategies. While Likins’ undergraduate proposal is of limited scope, if peer institutions around the country are any clue, it is an omen of things to come.

    The UA would be wise to let this seedling grow. By distinguishing between the financial needs of different departments and colleges, the university can move toward further fiscal decentralization. Such decentralization is necessary if university administrators are to follow through with the vision of Focused Excellence.

    Of course, whenever tuition rises, administrators must keep one eye on financial aid to make sure students aren’t being priced out of an education.

    Likins’ plan requires a college instituting a differential tuition increase to submit a financial aid proposal, and recommends that 15 percent of any such increase be set aside for need-based financial aid. However, a recommendation is just that.

    While UA tuition remains comparatively low, the university needs to continue its efforts to try to close the affordability gap – the difference between what students can afford and what they are asked to pay for their education. Raising tuition provides an opportunity to rectify the problem – with more money coming in, the UA can afford to dole more out in the form of need-based financial aid.

    Administrators need to carefully consider the role and size of need-based funds in relation to differential increases, and set a hard-and-fast standard for a proportion of new tuition money to be set aside for scholarships.

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Caitlin Hall, Michael Huston, Ryan Johnson, Aaron Mackey and Tim Runestad.

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