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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Lawmakers: Let’s make a deal

    When I was little, I was something of a tattletale. In my defense, I have three brothers and quickly learned that the threat of telling Mom was far more persuasive than my pathetic attempts at physical combat. My parents, however, had a coping strategy of their own.

    No matter what the problem was, the response was almost always, “”Find a compromise.”” Though this admonition did little to help when the boys had me in a headlock, it was a fairly reasonable solution when we were, say, fighting over whether to watch “”David the Gnome”” or “”Heathcliff.”” Sometimes, you just have to play the compromise card.

    It looks like the Arizona Legislature might be figuring that out too. A new bill proposed in the Senate presents a real step toward establishing a compromise in the battle between students and the state over tuition.

    The bill, SB 1469, proposes enacting a fixed tuition plan for undergraduates at the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. The plan would guarantee students a constant tuition rate for four consecutive years -ÿso any new increases would not affect students already enrolled and paying.

    From a student’s perspective, this makes a lot of sense. It would be obnoxious to check in to a hotel and be told midway through your stay that rates were going to increase significantly. In the same way, when students commit to a university, they’re making a financial commitment at a specific level. Being safeguarded from future changes to the cost of education is important in maintaining student confidence.

    The bill could also make a lot of sense for the universities. Why? Because protection from future increases in the cost of education could augment the number of students who stick around for the long haul. The UA isn’t known for its stellar graduation rate: After four years, only 25 percent of students graduate; that figure only increases to 55 percent after six years.

    The bill wouldn’t be a retention cure-all; retention rates are complex figures. The university tried to address retention’s personal side by building the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center to create a “”home in the heart of campus”” where undergraduates could feel connected. It stepped up the New Start program and tried to foster faculty-student relationships on a deeper level with the Faculty Fellows program.

    However, these responses, though positive, are only part of the solution. For some students, the difficulties of staying in school don’t have anything to do with feeling like they need a metaphorical “”center”” to their college lives – the problems come down to cold, hard cash. Providing insurance against unexpected tuition increases will undoubtedly help some students continue their undergraduate careers.

    Is the bill perfect for either side? No, certainly not. It has the rather troubling stipulation that students can remain unaffected by tuition increases only while in the major they originally declared upon entering the university.

    Given that more than 60 percent of American undergrads change their majors at least once, that provision really limits the amount of insurance from tuition increases the bill would provide.

    Additionally, insulating a large portion of the undergrad community from tuition increases would reduce the amount of funding available from tuition dollars. That creates new responsibility on the part of the state Legislature: If it diminishes the ability of universities to address immediate and severe funding shortages with tuition increases, the state must be committed to fully financially support them. Is it? Unfortunately, the jury’s still out on that one.

    But all in all, SB 1469 represents a compromise between the educational needs of students and the financial needs of the universities in our state. It’s far from perfect – but it still might be worth our backing.

    And it’s an election year, so our support – or lack thereof – means a lot. Maybe it’s time to write a quick note to your state representative and let him know how you feel about this bill. After all, no one can strike a compromise if only one party’s willing to talk.

    Lori Foley is a senior majoring in French and English. She can be reached at

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