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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASA leads the tuition tango

    It’s that time of the year again: the first few steps of the annual tuition tango. Monday, the Arizona Students’ Association, the group entrusted with articulating the interests of Arizona students to policymakers across the state, released its latest statewide tuition proposal, calling for a complete freeze in tuition rates.

    Though past proposals have smartly conceded that moderate tuition increases are a political reality, this year’s proposal is nothing if not bold – and at first glance, the request looks utterly naive.

    The suggested policy asks the Arizona Board of Regents to place a full freeze on tuition at Arizona’s public universities, and encourages the state Legislature to “”buy out”” the five percent tuition increase that Arizona students would otherwise pay out of their own pockets.

    Unfortunately, Arizona is in a sorry fiscal state, with a projected budget shortfall that could reach $800 million by the end of the year. Does ASA seriously think the Arizona Legislature, notorious for its predilection to underfund higher education, will be kindhearted enough to aid starving students while the state budget is dripping with red ink?

    Of course not. The tuition proposal is a signal – one that sends a strong message to policymakers about the primacy of student needs and the importance of student voices in the tuition-setting process. It may be blunt, and far from politically pragmatic, but it’s great to see ASA doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: aggressively lobbying for the interests of Arizona students.

    Traditionally, the UA president submits his own tuition proposal before students disclose theirs. This year, ASA eschewed that convention and released its proposal before President Shelton’s, scheduled to be unveiled today. Acting first is a powerful way to make student voices heard. Furthermore, starting with a request for no tuition increase whatsoever is a smart opening move in the tangled tango of negotiations to follow.

    If anything, the proposal could have been more aggressive. It acknowledges that “”(i)n the event that the Arizona State Legislature does not fund tuition increases on behalf of students, the students will again bear the necessary tuition increases.”” But this little concession goes a long way in weakening the forceful message that student tuition in Arizona should remain “”as nearly free as possible.””

    Of course, the freeze has as much hope as an ice cube in an Arizona November, and the proposal President Shelton will present to regents is certain to include a tuition hike. Via e-mail, he told the Wildcat that he “”will undoubtedly propose (an increase) higher than the five percent, but keep the proposed resident increase to tuition below double digits.””

    ASA’s proposal clearly describes the problem with the annual tuition increase students have come to expect: “”(S)tudents and families have experienced about a 90 percent increase in tuition in the past six years.”” Meanwhile, enrollment at Arizona universities has gone up, and state support has decreased.

    The challenge now is for ASA to make the same bold statements it’s made to the public to individual legislators by lobbying effectively at the Capitol. That challenge extends to individual students at well: make your voice heard in the Arizona Board of Regents tuition hearings later this month. We may not be able to freeze tuition – but strong leadership from student government and individual participation can certainly cool down its rapid rise.

    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat Opinions Board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler, Connor Mendenhall and Jeremiah Simmons.

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