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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Students protest state funding

    Around 30 students, mostly from ASU, spent several hours at the Legislature yesterday lobbying for an increase in state funding for the universities. Students are asking the Legislature to adopt Gov. Janet Napolitanos $926 million funding package for the state universities.
    Around 30 students, mostly from ASU, spent several hours at the Legislature yesterday lobbying for an increase in state funding for the universities. Students are asking the Legislature to adopt Gov. Janet Napolitano’s $926 million funding package for the state universities.

    PHOENIXðð – The orange jumpsuits worn by the inmates that clean the Capitol grounds are such a familiar sight that they often go unnoticed in the day-to-day activities of the legislature.

    So when 30 college students descended on the Capitol wearing bright orange T-shirts, it was hard for legislators to ignore the message: years of inadequate state funding to its universities are punishing students with disproportionately high tuition.

    The crowd was mostly compromised of Arizona State University students, who took a bus to hand-deliver 8,000 letters to legislators asking for an increase in state funding.

    ASU students are hit especially hard under proposed increases in resident undergraduate tuition increases this year, with ASU President Michael Crow, proposing an 8.5 percent increase in tuition.

    The UA request from President Peter Likins is 4.5 percent and the request by Northern Arizona University President John Haeger is 3.6 percent.

    Corinne Widmer, the president of the Undergraduate Student Government for the ASU, told the crowd “”she had enough”” of increases in tuition.

    “”We have had an increase of 78 percent in the last three years,”” Widmer said.

    Erin Hertzog, UA acting student body president, said the rising cost of tuition has made it impossible for some students to continue their education at the UA, adding that she knew one student who had to drop out.

    Hertzog, along with the three Arizona Students’ Association representatives from the UA, delivered more than 2,000 letters signed by UA students asking select members of the legislature to increase funding to the state universities. The signatures were collected on the UA Mall over the past few weeks.

    Sens. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, and Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, and Reps. Meg Burton Cahill, D-Tempe, and Doug Quelland, R-Phoenix, all spoke at the student rally.

    Quelland lectured the students on the funding constraints of “”the box”” as well as how to effectively lobby legislators.

    “”The box”” is a theoretical place in which every approved bill with some kind of cost attached to it has to vie for funding from the general fund.

    He said the crowd size was too small to attract much attention from legislators and told students to return to the Capitol to lobby legislators continuously on their interests.

    The Arizona Board of Regents postponed its decision on setting resident undergraduate tuition until the April 27 and 28 meeting, saying they wanted to review whether the legislature would increase funding for universities in its budget.

    If the universities are fully funded, student leaders argued, large increases to resident undergraduate tuition will be unnecessary.

    But the definition of “”fully funded”” is still being debated in the legislature. The board of regents has adopted Gov. Janet Napolitano’s $926 million budget request as the amount necessary to fully fund the three state universities. Republicans have adopted a lower amount, equal to last year’s budget plus an amount based on the growth of the student population over last year.

    The governor and Republican leaders have met twice for preliminary budget discussions, but it is not known whether a preliminary budget will be released prior to the April board of regents meeting.

    Student regent Ed Hermes, who at times led a small group of students carrying signs and chanting protests around the Capitol, admitted the regents may be forced to set tuition without an idea of how much the state Legislature is willing to spend.

    Chris Dang, UA representative for the ASA, said that this is an inherent problem with board of regents setting tuition during the spring.

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

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