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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Senate may cap tuition tuirtion

    PHOENIX – Everyone from student representatives to university officials has doubts about a state Senate bill intended to help in-state students by permanently capping tuition hikes.

    Senate Bill 1160 would permit resident tuition to only be increased in accordance with the Higher Education Price Index, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, D-Tucson. The index lists inflation rates for colleges and universities around the country, and often has been lower than the actual tuition increases in Arizona.

    “”It would diminish our ability to run the university,”” said Greg Fahey, associate vice president for government relations at the UA. “”It would harm our ability to provide high levels of financial aid from tuition. It would deny us revenue. We don’t savor that.””

    A certain percentage of students’ tuition goes toward financial aid, Fahey said. If tuition hikes are capped, the university cannot increase their financial aid allocations as much. Fahey added that UA in-state tuition is still among the bottom-third of the country’s leading public universities.

    According to the bill, tuition for the 2008 academic year should not have risen higher than 3.5 percent, as opposed to the five percent increase. For the 2009 academic year, tuition could increase five percent, which reflects the increase in the price index.

    “”At one point, we have to say the increase has gotten too great,”” Garcia said. “”We need to recognize that there is a limit and what that limit is, is up for discussion and debate.””

    The Arizona Students’ Association and the Associated Students of the University of Arizona have not taken a stance on the bill, said Erin Hertzog, ASUA president and ASA board member.

    While the bill sounds attractive, it is difficult to nail down tuition rates at a low rate for the coming years, Hertzog said.

    But she said she will have to look into the long-term effects of the bill, which could tie the hands of future officials who want to finance upgrades in the university system.

    “”By capping tuition I think they want to keep everybody happy,”” she said. “”But there are years when a higher increase is necessary.””

    The Arizona Board of Regents opposes the measure because it infringes on their right to set tuition rates according to local needs in the state.

    It is a faulty assumption that tuition hikes can be measured on an index that has nothing to do with the state universities’ actual needs, said Christine Thompson, assistant executive director for government affairs at the Board of Regents.

    “”It’s difficult to gauge tuition by setting it to any one price index,”” Thompson said. “”It’s the board’s responsibility to set tuition and fees. Limiting that would be detrimental.””

    Garcia said although he hears this reasoning “”very loud and clear,”” he argues that tuition still would be increased under his bill – it would just have a ceiling.

    Certain students would be excluded from the measure, which means their tuition could be adjusted without considering the price index.

    The exclusions would include non-resident students, newly enrolled students, students who change their tuition category, students who change their major and full-time students who have been enrolled for longer than six years.

    Several other lawmakers have signed on to the bill, including Tucson Democratic Sen. Victor Soltero.

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