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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Board of Regents Briefs

    Lack of legislative budget hinders board’s tuition decision

    PHOENIX – During the March 9 meeting, the regents tabled setting tuition for undergraduate residents in hopes that a substantial increase in state funding would offset the need to increase resident undergraduate tuition. The state has a record surplus in excess of $1 billion.

    “”The governor’s office persuaded us to put that item on hold so we could find out what the state would be giving us before making the increase,”” said Regent Ernest CalderÇün during the March meeting. “”We may not need to increase tuition for residents as much as we thought.””

    With budget talks continuing between Gov. Janet Napolitano and legislative leaders at the Capitol, the regents will have to make their decision on tuition without any concrete commitments to higher education from the Legislature.

    For the Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, setting tuition and the state’s contribution to its universities should be separate decisions.

    “”It’s unfair to tie them together,”” said Knaperek, who chairs the Universities, Community Colleges and Technology Committee in the House.

    She said with the lone exception of one year when the state had a massive deficit, the Legislature has been fully funding the university system. She added the Legislature has approved increases in faculty salaries and a multimillion-dollar package for university building renewal.

    Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, added the universities have also received tens of millions in funding from Proposition 301, an education sales tax approved by voters in November 2000.

    Gray called the 70 percent growth in student tuition over the last three years at ASU “”excessive,”” saying it was a hardship for many students.

    During her weekly press conference, Gov. Janet Napolitano said the decision to setting tuition could wait no longer.

    “”(The board of regents) are going to have to move; people need to know what the tuition bills are going to be,”” said Napolitano.

    Napolitano said she was pleased to see that Arizona State University had reduced its request for an 8.5 percent increase in resident undergraduate tuition to a 6.5 percent increase and called on the Legislature to increase the state contribution.

    “”Universities are a high priority for my budget, I believe they are an essential part of the future of Arizona. The state needs to step up to the plate more than it has done in the past,”” Napolitano said. “”I also believe, and it is reflected in my budget, that because we have tuition increases, the state needs to pay into the state financial aid trust, in order to make sure that college is not just accessible, but those who need it can afford it.””

    Student leaders said they are going into today’s meeting unsure whether the regents will adopt tuition proposals offered by the presidents of the universities or counter tuition proposals from student leaders.

    A proposal made by members of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Graduate and Professional Student Council slightly undercut President Peter Likins’ proposal. While the president had asked the board of regents to approve a 4.6 percent increase in tuition for resident students, the student proposal suggests a 4 percent increase for in-state students.

    “”It’s a fair compromise,”” said Erin Hertzog, acting student body president.

    ASU President Michael Crow this week scaled back its 8.5 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduates on its main Tempe campus to 6.5 percent. The proposed increases for students on its ASU West and Polytechnic campuses remain at 3.5 percent.

    Northern Arizona University President John Haeger is asking the board of regents to raise residential undergraduate tuition to 3.6 percent.

    The Arizona Students’ Association, which lobbied the Legislature for an increase in state funding, said legislators have not committed to higher-education funding in budget negotiations.

    “”We have had no commitment on any numbers,”” said Chris Dang, an ASA representative.

    Dang said without a budget from the Legislature, the board of regents will have to make its decision on tuition as it has every year – in the dark about future state contributions to higher education.

    Dang said that this is an inherent problem with the board of regents setting tuition during the spring.

    “”The students have to lay down their cards before the state does,”” Dang said.

    The regents will consider a proposal today to move the tuition-setting process to the fall semester.

    Ed Hermes, the nonvoting student regent, said last week the regents couldn’t wait any longer on the decision to set undergraduate resident tuition.

    He said it was unfortunate the Legislature had not set its budget late into its session and regents would have to make the decision without a firm commitment from the Legislature on its budget priorities.

    – By J. Ferguson

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