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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tuition woes start with Legislature

    Our student leaders have been stuck between a rock and a hard place over the past few weeks.

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona, along with the Arizona Students’ Association and the student governments of Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University, have worked tirelessly to create a joint tuition proposal. They’re stuck: They have the goal of keeping university education affordable for Arizona students, but they know they face a state Legislature predisposed to low support for university education.

    The student groups proposed a modest 2.3 percent increase in tuition fees – a low number that would be augmented by a hoped-for $150 million increase in funding from the state Legislature. The move would give each university an 8 percent funding increase.

    If the plan works, it will be a huge step forward in preserving the accessibility of education for Arizona students.

    Too bad the powers that be will likely put the kibosh on it.

    This is by no means an indictment of our student representatives, who are doing the best they can, given a state Legislature with a track record like ours. They’ve realistically put their support behind President Robert Shelton’s plan – a 6.5 percent increase – should the Arizona Board of Regents view the increased state funding as an impossibility. But it’s depressing and disheartening to consider the obstacles created by our unresponsive Legislature.

    According to the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Arizona ranks 45th in the nation in state funding appropriations for higher education per capita. In 2005, 28 percent of the UA’s budget came from state-appropriated funds, a low proportion compared to other states.

    Higher education simply hasn’t been made a priority by the state Legislature, except for showboating bills about mandating U.S. flags in classrooms or letting students opt out of assignments that offend them.

    The situation seems pretty hopeless.

    But the problem of low funding for higher education isn’t limited to Arizona. Campuses around the country are feeling the sting. Over the past 10 years, our neighbors to the West in California have seen huge increases in funding for prisons, moderate increases in health and human services and a 9 percent decrease in funding for tuition.

    But there is hope. Even when state-funding decreases necessitated an increase in California’s student fees, student lobby groups worked to ensure that 33 percent of the income generated from the fee increase would go directly to financial aid to maintain the accessibility of their university system. And nationwide, state spending for higher education this year has increased at the fastest rate in five years.

    Maybe some of this student-focused mojo will work its magic in Arizona.

    After all, Arizona is desperate right now to attract the type of workforce and resources that will make it a national biotechnology hub. To have an economically sustainable future, we need to put work into building up a population ready to participate in the industry of the next 50 years.

    That means our government needs to start acting like it cares about higher education.

    Arizona’s consistently abysmal education rankings need to change, and this is a great way to turn the corner. Our student leaders are right to pressure the state Legislature for funding. And although we’d be shocked if our Legislature paid attention, we haven’t given up hope yet.

    Let’s hope we don’t have to.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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