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The Daily Wildcat

Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

ASA holds Regents to ‘Arizona’s Promise’

Standing in the back of the crowded room at Arizona State University’s Memorial Union was intense. Before my eyes, I was watching tuition increase yet again at all three of Arizona’s public universities. It hurt to see my work as part of the Arizona Students’ Association to make higher education in Arizona more affordable and accessible made that much more difficult. As a student at the UA with a twin brother at ASU, it hurt even more knowing my parents would see their bill increase twice and their children’s student debt deepen.

During a confusing period of comments, motions, students from the UA set themselves apart, offering a flurry of objections. When the dust cleared, Regents had voted to reject President Robert Shelton’s tuition in favor of a substitute motion presented by Regent Dennis DeConcini calling for a much more acceptable tuition increase of 3.7 percent. My peers and colleagues with ASA celebrated, and we returned to Tucson once the meeting recessed, amazed by what had happened.

That was Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, when tuition was set for this current 2009-10 academic year. The next day, word quickly began to spread that the UA tuition vote was reconsidered and Shelton’s original request was accepted by Regents. We were confused, deflated and shocked.

Predictable tuition is not a new concept to the Arizona university system. Northern Arizona University’s President John Haeger adopted the model first, embracing a zero percent tuition increase for returning Lumberjacks. President Michael Crow of ASU followed suit, promising a five percent increase for returning Sun Devils. A majority of the Regents applauded the efforts to maintain affordability, allow for students and families to adequately budget the total cost of education and avoid pricing students out of a college degree.

Late to the predictability party was Shelton, though with the motion to reconsider, was mandated by the Arizona Board of Regents, beginning in fall 2010, to increase base tuition by only 5 percent annually for a four-year period starting with the semester of entry for first-year students. This so-called “”indexed tuition”” would apply to both resident and non-resident undergraduate and graduate students.

Unfortunately, Shelton seems to have forgotten this mandate. Rather than a 5-percent increase for returning Wildcats, resident undergraduates are facing the single largest dollar tuition increase in Arizona history; a whopping $1,450 increase in base tuition and a total $2,130 jump after fees are factored in. The new bill will be $8,972, not including pertinent program fees and differential tuition.

Students have been left speechless. Media reports have called the proposed tuition hikes “”sharp,”” and the voice of Arizona’s 120,000 university students agrees. That is why I’m proud that the ASA Board of Directors recently endorsed a statewide tuition proposal calling for Regents and administrators to keep “”Arizona’s Promise.””

Our stance, dubbed “”Arizona’s Promise,”” supports the efforts of respective student governments to work collaboratively with university administrators to voice student opinion in the development of tuition and fee proposals, encourages Regents to develop sound tuition policy that works to make sure higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible, and promotes the accountability and predictability efforts adopted by Regents for all three universities.

The statewide plan revolves around affordability, transparency and shared governance. Though predictability is a means and an important factor leading to affordable tuition, it does not guarantee affordability. That is why ASA encourages Regents to adopt policy which ties tuition adjustments to median family income in Arizona, not just national competitive rankings. This is especially critical for students and families in these tough economic times.

Finally, the students’ proposal reaffirms the importance of shared governance so that, as students become larger investors in our universities, students should be consulted and student support garnered for all tuition and fee proposals, including differential tuition and program fees. ASA has been fortunate to build a strong student voice at the Regent level, and appreciate efforts by university administration to incorporate that voice at the campus level. We hope this cooperative spirit continues as all higher education stakeholders weather this economic storm through the 2012 “”cliff”” year, when federal stimulus monies are depleted.

This important piece is emboldened by a commitment by ASA in this statewide student proposal to work with Regents and the universities to identify stable sources of revenue to guarantee the promise of education that will strengthen and diversify Arizona’s economy. I am especially excited and passionate about these endeavors because the Arizona State Legislature’s divestment in higher education has put an undue burden on Arizona students and families. That fight was a main reason I began working on this issue two years ago with ASA and I know that by keeping “”Arizona’s Promise,”” we can work to reprioritize higher education in Arizona that is affordable and accessible.

—Guest columnist Elma Delic is a journalism senior and board chair of the Arizona Students’ Association.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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