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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Don’t be hating on the Regents

While you were busy taking your last midterms and packing your tequila and sombreros, ahem, sunscreen and textbooks, to jet off somewhere fabulous for spring break, the Arizona Board of Regents was making its final decisions regarding how much it will cost you for the privilege to show up hungover for class the day after Spring Break next year.

In February, UA President Robert Shelton had released an initial tuition proposal that would have increased in-state tuition by 31 percent. Shelton defended the increase by citing the evaporation of state funding and pointing to the $40 million the UA has already cut.

The proposal was met with some outcry by students, citizens and newspaper editorial boards, most of whom claimed that the approximately $2,000 increase was too much for students to bear in an already strenuous financial market. As a nice gesture, the Board of Regents held a tuition hearing at each of the three universities on March 1 “”to hear testimony and comments from the public, students and other interested parties regarding the level of tuition and mandatory student fees to be charged for resident and nonresident students at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona for academic year 2010-2011.””

Like a college student slipping in a term paper minutes before the due date, Shelton released new tuition recommendations just the day before the regents were set to meet on the topic. This proposal supported a 20-percent increase in fees. Some, including the Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Chris Nagata, during the March 10 ASUA meeting, marked this decrease in proposed tuition as a triumph of student voice and advocacy for lower tuition. Others might speculate that Shelton may have inflated his tuition proposal just so that he could make this kind of dramatic decrease.

After all this speculation and talk, what did ABOR decide? The regents voted to set resident undergraduate tuition at $8,237, a 20-percent increase. Before we start dancing to the beats being spun by good ol’ DJ RShelt, consider that this base tuition might not be as great of a reduction as it appears.

The regents also voted to incorporate the current $766 “”economic recovery fee”” into next year’s tuition. As reported by Evan Lisull of the Desert Lamp, the minutes of the April 30, 2009, Board of Regents meeting note, “”Regent (Ernest) Calderón stated that he wanted to emphasize that the vote for tuition surcharges today is effective only for the 2009-2010 academic year.”” Not enough emphasis, apparently, as this fee-that-is-no-longer-a-fee is now permanent. That tuition will be reduced by this or any amount when there is no longer need for “”economic recovery”” seems as unlikely as a men’s hoops win did last Thursday. The streak for raising tuition has been going for longer than 25 years and remains unbroken: Tuition and fees have gone up every year since 1977.

The regents also voted on program fees and differential tuition, including a $500 fee for the Honors College. Though the regents did discuss the relative merits of differential tuition, all proposed program fees were ultimately approved.

Before we go hating the regents and violating the “”no signs with sticks”” protest notices posted on every entrance to the regents meeting, we should remember that the regents had considered these issues long before this final decision meeting and spent several more hours discussing particularly tuition with Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay. Regent Mark Killian mentioned that he wore his funeral suit to the meeting, and Calderón seconded the somber sentiment, calling the meeting “”the darkest meeting of the Board of Regents since the Great Depression.””

Though no one likes to pay more money for the same product, both Shelton and the regents made compelling points for why tuition and fees must increase. In a Feb. 20 Arizona Daily Star article, Shelton said, “”We cannot diminish the quality of the UA nor curtail access to a UA education.”” He continued, “”To do so would be contrary to our values and the system’s values of access and quality.”” As Regent Anne Mariucci said during the meeting March 11, a UA education “”has been the world’s greatest bargain for the last 10 years and it can’t be any more. It’s not on sale any more.””

Yes, an Arizona education will cost more next year. But Shelton is right about one thing: We don’t want to risk the quality of a UA degree. While the issue of grading quality is another entirely, the regents considered the concerns of the university fairly and decided as such. The problem that continues to plague the regents, the administration and students is the $100 million of funding from the state that is gone. Lost like the $50 and your fake ID that disappeared from your wallet sometime between that first Irish car bomb on St. Patrick’s Day and when you woke up the next morning wearing only Lucky Charms.

— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English who had a whole suitcase of Spring Break metaphors, but the airline lost her luggage. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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