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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fixed tuition possible

    PHOENIX – The governor’s proposal to keep tuition rates constant for a student’s four years in college could be feasible in the future, but not without debate on how to enact such a policy at the state’s three universities, lawmakers say.

    In Gov. Napolitano’s sixth State of the State address Monday, she said students who enter college this fall shouldn’t have to deal with increasing tuition rates.

    “”Times change and tuition will rise, but it shouldn’t go up once you’ve started your coursework,”” Napolitano said in her speech.

    As long as there are parameters around the plan it should be feasible, said Sen. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona.

    “”I think we need to find out what the numbers are,”” said O’Halleran, who is also the chair of the Arizona Senate’s Higher Education Committee.

    Currently, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University have predictable tuition rates.

    NAU set tuition for four years, with a 12 percent increase for the first year, then none for the next three. ASU set tuition with a 15 percent increase, then a 5 percent increase for three years, said Fred Boice, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body for the UA.

    “”The biggest drawback is that increase the first year is substantial,”” Boice said.

    The UA has set tuition through the 2008-2009 school year, but fixed tuition, where tuition wouldn’t hike for a student’s four-year college career, could be a possibility when regents set tuition this fall.

    “”I think that Dr. Shelton will no doubt give that every consideration,”” he said.

    UA President Robert Shelton was not available for comment as of press time last night.

    The regents approved tuition for the UA on Dec. 6. Undergraduate in-state tuition increased by $450 to 5,274, a 9 percent increase. Out-of-state tuition increased by $2,350 to $18,408, a 15 percent increase.

    Rep. Jennifer Burns, R-Avra Valley, said a fixed tuition rate for students would encourage them to graduate in four years.

    “”That would be a better use of resources,”” said Burns, the chair of the House’s Higher Education Committee.

    But the quality of higher education institutions needs to be preserved, and a

    financial burden cannot be placed on incoming students each year, she said.

    Tommy Bruce, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said lawmakers and university officials need to make sure to take the state’s fluctuating economy into account when deciding any sort of fixed tuition rates.

    “”On the forefront, yes, it’s a great idea,”” said Bruce, a business administration junior. “”On the actual nitty-gritty details, I think they are good discussions to have; I just want to make sure we don’t lose sight of what our goals are.””

    Legislature debates university budget cuts

    Another issue lawmakers are wrangling with is the state’s estimated $1 billion or more deficit in the $10.6 billion budget.

    Napolitano has said she wants to keep universities as untouched as possible, and proposed a recommended plan last week to cut more than $214 million in spending, while also pulling from the state’s Rainy Day reserve fund.

    A plan by Sen. Bob Burns, R-Peoria, and Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, would cut a lump-sum amount of 10 percent from state agencies, including universities. The plan also calls for more than $630 million in spending cuts.

    “”That would be horrendous,”” said Greg Fahey, the UA’s lobbyist. Fahey said he supports the governor’s plan that would keep universities exempt from cuts.

    Although the cuts may be hard, they are necessary for the state, Burns said.

    “”Universities have to help us out here,”” she said.

    O’Halleran called the Republican plan “”unrealistic.””

    “”It’s a draconian cut that won’t allow Arizona to compete in a knowledge-based economy,”” he said.

    Boice said education needs to be looked at differently.

    “”The legislature considers education to be a part of government,”” he said. “”In my view, education is not a part of government but an investment in our future.””

    The Higher Education Committee will meet this afternoon. All three presidents will present their long-range plans for their respective universities.

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