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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona Board of Regents chairman talks tuition, student safety

	Courtesy of Arizona Board of Regents: Mark Killian, chairman of the
Arizona Board of Regents, began his four-year term this month.

Courtesy of Arizona Board of Regents: Mark Killian, chairman of the
Arizona Board of Regents, began his four-year term this month.

After a year of budget battles, tuition change and a renewed focus on student safety, the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs the state’s public universities, has kept itself busy. The Arizona Summer Wildcat spoke with the new regents chairman, Mark Killian, who began his term this month, about what challenges lie ahead for Arizona universities and their students.

Arizona Summer Wildcat: What do you see as your role as chairman of the board of regents?

Killian: I think our objective is to continue the increased equality of our institutions. We are not interested in being also-ran institutions. These are three independent, very strong institutions that are innovating and doing some wonderful things for the state of Arizona and, for that matter, for the country and the world. I see my role as continuing that objective to get all the resources we can to keep pressure on the universities’ presidents to continually improve and be the very best we can. … The other thing is that we have a responsibility to preserve the investment that every student has in their degree and so we have to shepherd and protect the institutions so we protect that value of the student’s degree. With as much money as they’re spending to get a degree, we have a responsibility to make sure that degree increases in value every year.

We have to drive down the cost of tuition for our students and the only way to do that is to go to the taxpayers and ask them to support a funding mechanism to reduce the cost of tuition.

Is the reason why tuition has been going up a lack of funding from the state?

Absolutely. That has been the driving force. The legislature, on a per-student basis, is giving us less money than we had per student in 1955.

My concern is that we’re violating the Arizona Constitution, where it says this is to be as free as possible. I am very concerned about that so one of the things I am going to work on over the four years I have left on the board of regents is figuring out how we can come up with a ballot measure to go to the vote of the people to drive down the cost. I would like to see us have tuition for Arizona residents to be no more than $5,000 a year. I don’t think you have to mortgage your future to have to get a college education.

This past year the UA passed a guaranteed tuition plan, and Northern Arizona University has a similar plan. Should Arizona State University adopt a guaranteed tuition plan like the UA and NAU?

Not necessarily. I think each institution knows the needs of its institutions and I wouldn’t force it on ASU. That’s something the administrators need to figure out.

An athletic program fee at ASU was added last year and at the UA a 2.5 percent convenience fee was added to Bursar’s payments. Do you think there will be any changes made to student fees for Arizona schools?

There is always an ongoing debate on fees and so I’m sure there will all kinds of proposals out there. You have to let the institutions visit with the students and figure out what they want to do and bring it to us to figure out if it makes sense. The bottom line is, as much as we’d like to increase the academic quality of our institutions, we also want to increase the athletic powers of our universities. Whether people like it or not, the fact remains that if you have successful sports programs they generate revenue for the institution.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing college students today?

The cost of tuition is by far the number one challenge. I really don’t like seeing our students coming out of their bachelor’s program with a bucket load of debt.

This past year, the regents created the statewide Student Safety Task Force and it presented its findings last month. How do you think the task force performed?

I think they did very well. I think it helped us highlight the problems that we have at our universities with alcohol and drugs. A year ago I was pounding the table saying we have to do something. You send your kids off to school and they come away with a degree in business and a degree in alcoholism. That’s not the way it ought to be at the universities. There is a culture that has to occur to get that stopped and I’m hopeful that the task force will help us help change some of that culture. … It’s not a majority of the students. It’s a few that create the problems, but the damage they do to the institutions is tremendous because what gets reported is a few students that do some bad things that overshadow the good things the students are doing like all the service projects and service hours they’re doing in the community. When the national press picks it up, they classify us as a bunch of party schools and that diminishes the value of our degrees.

A fraternity at the UA was recently put under interim suspension for being accused of several violations. Should universities crack down harder on fraternities?

Absolutely. I suggested that you force all the fraternities and sororities to come and justify their existence or their relationship with the university based on the service they’re doing and how they’re controlling their members when it comes to alcohol and drugs. The reason I felt that way is that I feel that we need to get serious in combatting this social problem that we have. I recognize that there are a lot of good fraternities and sororities out there and it probably isn’t fair to the good ones, but again, there’s too much at stake for the institutions to continue down the path that we’ve been on.

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