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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The university must excise frivolity

    David Franciscolumnist
    David Francis
    columnist

    On the 10th of this month, I came onto campus with a smile on my face. It was a beautiful November day in Tucson – and it was Friday. Little did I know how quickly that smile would be wiped from my face. On the way to class, I picked up a copy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat, and my heart sank to the ground: President Robert Shelton had proposed another tuition hike.

    While the hike was widely expected, there had remained in my soul a slight glimmer of irrational hope: Though recent precedent told me we would see yet another substantial tuition increase, perhaps this year would be different. Maybe, just maybe, the powers-to-be in Arizona would adhere to their constitutional mandate of keeping university tuition “”as nearly free as possible.””

    How incredibly naive.

    Tuition, according to Shelton’s proposal, will rise by as much as 8.5 percent next year for nonresident undergraduates.

    Of course, blame for the increase cannot possibly be placed on the shoulders of President Shelton. The man has been here less than a year and is simply reacting (as he must) to an anticipated need for increased revenues.

    Still, when things take a turn for the worse, the public wants the head of the person responsible – but no such person exists in the case of the ever-increasing tuition.

    These tuition hikes are the fruits of a bureaucracy that has lost perspective of its mandate to provide reasonably priced education to students. Currently, the tuition debate is one of degree: By how much should we raise tuition? Revenues must be increased in order to meet rising costs – and since the state won’t come to our aid, students naturally must shoulder the load.

    Of course, I’d bet that not a single student on this campus is happy with shelling out more and more cash for an education year after year. Something must be done – and while lobbying the Legislature for more money is a good start, it’s often a fruitless endeavor.

    So, I’m going to come out of left field with an idea that is clearly foreign to university bureaucrats: Cut costs. Yes, it’s that easy.

    Here’s some perspective: did you know, for example, that last year Residence Life paid more than $15,000 for two pieces of art in Highland Market? So much for frugality …and common sense.

    How about the $170,000 wildcat statue in Alumni Plaza? Sure, mascot statues are great – but buying a statue with a price tag equivalent to that of a small house sounds a bit daft.

    If university officials were willing to make these and many other similar purchases, what does that tell us about their commitment to educational affordability?

    As if thoughtless spending weren’t enough, university students are subject to another encumbrance – that being the bureaucratic inefficiency that is universal to state universities.

    Need proof? Last year, the state actually hurt its own university by penalizing the UA nearly $700,000 for having too many students with more than 145 credits. What were legislators thinking?

    Sadly, the university is part of a bureaucracy that will continue to spend excessively and work unwittingly against its own self-interest (as in the case of the $700,000 penalty). Thankfully, there is always hope (however dim) that the governor and Legislature will take a greater interest in the lot of Arizona’s students.

    In the past, the state has earmarked a smaller and smaller portion of its general fund towards its universities. According to Associated Students of the University of Arizona data, 27 years ago, the state spent nearly 20 percent of its general fund on universities, yet that number has declined to a meager 10 percent. But now our state is realizing a significant budget surplus – perhaps this will enable and encourage the legislature to throw a few more bucks our way.

    In a perfect world, the university would learn how to deal with decreased state funding by exercising frugality and prudence. In the real world, we’ll have to rely on the Arizona Students’ Association and our elected representatives in ASUA to lobby state officials for increased funding. Managing tuition must become first priority for university officials, or they will effectively price the middle class out of the university.

    What a tragedy that would be.

    David Francis is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wilcat.arizona.edu.

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