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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fast Break

    Talyor Kessinger columnist
    Talyor Kessinger
    columnist

    A very special Christmas gift from the regents

    By now, most students have probably opened all their Christmas gifts and finished writing thank-you notes. But take a look in that stocking one more time. Over winter break, the Arizona Board of Regents left Arizona students a hefty hunk of coal. On Dec. 5 – last semester’s dead day – the board passed yet another tuition hike, voting 7-to-2 to raise the cost of all three of Arizona’s public universities. But wait – there’s more! The board also gave approval to pile on a new $40 “”student services”” fee, set to double in a year. It’s a shame that the regents refused to compromise with Arizona students, who proposed both a showy tuition freeze and a reasonable increase of 5 percent. It’s even worse that hidden fees and rising costs are becoming an annual holiday tradition.

    Legislators get snippy with budget cuts

    This year, UA students won’t be the only ones in a financial pinch. Arizona’s state government is running a massive $970 million deficit, and the state Legislature’s latest budget draft, released early this month, includes a proposed 10 percent funding cut for the UA. Ten percent may seem innocuous, but it’s not. The cut would reduce the UA’s operating budget by a draconian $36 million. Meanwhile, Monday, UA President Robert Shelton released an ominous memo, “”Preparing for Possible Short-Term Fiscal Challenges,”” urging UA administrators to “”be prudent”” in case of a budget cut. University funding shouldn’t be sacrificed to help make up for lackluster state tax revenues. But until the state’s Legislature makes education a priority, there may be hard times ahead for Arizona’s universities.

    Lute leaves – with a paycheck

    UA basketball coach Lute Olson was the talk of Tucson over the break, extending his unexpected leave of absence to a full year and filing for divorce from his wife Dec. 6. Although rumors continue to swirl about the beloved Hall of Fame coach’s personal life and the future of the UA men’s basketball program, at least one thing is certain: Lute will continue to receive his lucrative salary – $714,567, plus another $355,000 in possible incentive pay. It’s true that Lute’s loot comes from the athletics budget, is not provided by taxpayers and is guaranteed under the terms of leave in his contract with the university. But as signs continue to point toward an imminent budget crunch, we can’t help but think there may be better ways to blow a few hundred grand.

    More freshmen stick with the UA

    Attention freshmen: Look around your classroom, and be proud. For the first time in years, only one in five of you will leave the UA before next fall. According to the UA’s five-year plan, set for submission to the governor this month, freshman retention has hit a high of 80 percent. That’s not excellent by any means, especially compared with other public schools our size, but it’s a noteworthy improvement on the dismal retention rates of the past. The real danger isn’t in the number of students who transfer or drop out; it’s in focusing too exclusively on statistics like retention as a measurement of quality. After all, students want to stay at excellent universities, but making them stay is no guarantee that a university will become excellent. The UA ought to focus on excellence in every aspect – not just through the retention of students.

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