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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Editorial: Regents, not lawmakers, should spend tuition funds”

    Few subjects are more divisive than tuition, but most people would probably agree that the money students pay in tuition should go, in some way, to benefit their universities – or at the very least, to aid the cause of higher education.

    That the money should be used to benefit the state, or help desperate legislators hoist themselves out of holes they dug themselves, is probably the last thing that would come into most people’s minds.

    Yet that’s exactly what Arizona lawmakers are trying to do.

    With an eye on Arizona’s anticipated $1.2 billion budget shortfall, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has refused to approve the Board of Regents’ funding plan, insisting that an “”unanticipated”” tuition windfall of $56.7 million should be kept for the state’s use because of the economic crisis.

    The board of regents has lashed back, insisting that the committee has no authority to keep them from spending the money. “”These monies were considered when (the) universities were creating their operating budgets,”” a spokeswoman for the board told the East Valley Tribune. Confiscating the funds amounts to taking money away from the state’s universities – and, by extension, from the students who coughed up those extra tuition dollars.

    This move only proves what many observers know all too well: Arizona lawmakers are hopelessly remote from the needs and interests of college students, as well as the needs of the state’s universities’ faculty and staff. And they’re often blind to the fact that those interests are inseparable from those of Arizona as a whole.

    Tuition hikes are already harmful to students. President Robert Shelton has recommended a 12.5 percent increase in undergraduate tuition, meaning students would pay $659 more a year for their classes next year.

    As Arizona Students’ Association chair Michael Slugocki told the Daily Wildcat Sunday, higher tuition ultimately means larger student debts, which has a corrosive effect on students’ willingness to stay in college. Since college graduates generally make twice as much as high school graduates, squeezing Arizonans out of college results in a poorer populace – and, ultimately, a poorer Arizona.

    But what made those hikes necessary in the first place? In large part, they resulted from the state government’s growing reluctance to fund higher education.

    Allowing the state to use tuition dollars to fill the budget hole would send a dangerous message to future state legislators. That message would be that raising tuition is beneficial to the interests of reckless lawmakers.

    In short, it would give no incentive whatsoever to the state government to spend money on higher education. Why not just oblige the universities to raise tuition, which the state could then confiscate at will whenever a budget comes up short?

    State legislators have a daunting task ahead of them. They may well be forced to make sacrifices in the name of fiscal responsibility, and Arizona’s three universities will probably suffer as much as any other interest group clamoring for a slice of the state budgets.

    But this isn’t the way to do it. Students have enough problems without being forced to shoulder the responsibility for filling the Arizona budget deficit.

    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Andi Berlin, Justyn Dillingham, Chris Carter, Lauren LePage and Nickolas Seibel.

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