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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Regents take no definitive action on future tuition

An Arizona Board of Regents meeting, which began with a dozen students playing dead over what they called the “”murder of public education,”” ended without any definite action from the board on how to determine future tuition policy.

The topic that dominated discussion for the afternoon session of Thursday’s meeting in the Memorial Union at Arizona State University was a proposal that would raise the cap on allowable tuition levels for the three state universities. That proposal, in its current form, would raise the tuition cap from the top of the bottom third of the average tuition rates for respective peer institutions to the median for those same institutions.

Using the university’s peers as a benchmark for determining tuition was a point of contention for the regents, with Regent Chair Anne Mariucci stating such numbers were “”bad data.””

“”It’s just a sticker price of tuition that absolutely ignores all the other cost of attendance,”” she said.

Several regents echoed her sentiments, including Regent Fred DuVal who suggested doing away with that benchmark entirely, calling it “”meaningless, antiquated, and irrelevant”” and an “”arbitrary straitjacket.””

“”It’s like putting lipstick on a dinosaur,”” he joked.

Regent Ernest Calderón, one of the longest tenured members of the board, said the policy of using peer institutions to help determine tuition was more of a compromise than anything else.

“”The regents that preceded us were not idiots, for the most part,”” Calderón said. “”If we throw this out, the question is what is going to be that measurement? What is going to be that benchmark?””

Several regents, namely Mariucci and Regent Mark Killian, questioned how universities determined their peer institutions.

“”When you set the price of the product we’re producing, I just don’t want to use an arbitrary list to determine that,”” Killian said.

All three university presidents, UA’s Robert Shelton, ASU’s Michael Crow, and NAU’s John Haeger, said peers were determined through similarities in size, scope and mission, rather than financial factors such as state appropriation or tuition levels.  

DuVal responded that he does not believe other states deal with the same challenges, such as expected enrollment growth and state budget cuts, that Arizona universities do.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, in his first official meeting as a member of the board, said that these sorts of benchmarks usually drive up costs.

Regent Bob McLendon said the policy, as it currently stands, does not give the universities or the regents the freedom they need to address potential problems.

“”This policy we have is really restrictive,”” McLendon said. “”It doesn’t give us any flexibility to move with the times.””

Jennifer Ginther, a student regent from NAU, said she was concerned that there was not enough student input on the process of determining the proposal. A few regents suggested forming a student taskforce to give feedback ahead of the resolution of the issue at the regents’ next meeting in April.

The Arizona Students’ Association released a statement praising Ginther’s efforts as an “”advocate for students.””

“”On behalf of Arizona students, we thank her and all the Regents for deciding to give students a voice in the tuition and fee setting process,”” the statement reads.  

Other business:

Alternative methods to degrees

All three universities presented their enterprise initiatives for developing low-cost options and alternative degree pathways outside of their main campuses.

Some regents said they were worried about efforts being duplicated, since the policies were developed independent of each other. DuVal said more work needed to be done to weed out redundant and unproductive programs.

“”I think what we’ve done, we’ve gone about for the right reason but we haven’t done the hard work to figure out what we want to grow into,”” DuVal said.

Crow said it was impossible to tell which programs are or might be redundant if they have not been instituted yet. “”The market is a powerful force,”” Crow said. “”If you launch programs, and no one comes, then you have a redundant program.””

Mariucci said that the university system enterprise model is vital for continued solvency of higher education in Arizona.

“”This isn’t a choice, this isn’t an innovation, this is a mandate of what we have to do to survive, this is our future,”” she said.  

Funding

Daniel Hatch, the president of the undergraduate student government at ASU’s west campus, said the regents should reexamine how funding is allocated, namely the “”40-40-20″” split that is currently employed. Under that system, both ASU and the UA receive 40 percent of allocations and NAU receives 20 percent.

“”I think (the model) is a bit arcane and I don’t think it represents the will of the people,”” Hatch said.

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