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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Empty words, broken promises”

    Steven GernerASUA Senator
    Steven Gerner
    ASUA Senator

    The Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body of Arizona’s public universities, made a bold move on Thursday to stay the course.

    Confronted with mounting problems regarding class availability, attracting quality faculty, higher education access for disadvantaged students, student retention and student academic success, the board of regents chose to keep more of the same. We can all take comfort knowing the regents have stuck with tradition – and I for one will sleep better knowing the board of regents avoided making any changes in the way it has conducted business for the last 30 years. Of course, given that higher education in Arizona received an “”F”” in affordability, Arizona provides $94 million below the national average in financial aid and Arizona’s public universities face more obstacles today than they ever have, we have to wonder if “”more of the same”” is what Arizona needs.

    At the board of regents’ most recent meeting, an ambitious and aggressive tuition proposal was presented by student leaders from across the state. Students called for a 2.3 percent increase in tuition if the state Legislature approved a 12 percent increase in funding for Arizona’s public universities. While the plan had several limitations, it represented the innovative new approach to funding higher education, which is necessary for an effective solution to the funding crisis plaguing Arizona’s public universities.

    What was the regents’ response? After eloquent commitments to supporting students and promises to keep higher education as “”nearly free as possible,”” regents promptly turned around and voted down the student proposal. The vote against the student tuition proposal was not unexpected. The student proposal had several limitations that could not be overcome without more input and cooperation from the board of regents. But many were surprised when the regents proceeded to vote on a tuition increase based on the failed model they have used in the past.

    The current approach to setting tuition is failing students. Just look around any of Arizona’s public universities and you will find students struggling to graduate on time due to a lack of available classes and struggling academically due to the lack of quality faculty. Students’ expectation that their tuition dollars at minimum ensure there are sufficient required courses available to graduate on time is not unreasonable. This is only one example of the numerous failures the regents’ financial policies have resulted in. The ways in which tuition is set and higher education funding is approached need to change.

    While regents did approve a reasonable 5 percent increase at their recent meeting, they continue to cling to a failed model for setting tuition that neglects to link tuition to the other variables that define the financial well-being of a university. The board of regents’ inability to secure the resources necessary to support students and develop a competent, well-educated workforce is a grave disservice to the state of Arizona. We need a new approach to funding higher education that links all the variables, but regents clearly stated at their meeting on Thursday they would much rather stick with their current model – a model clearly failing students – rather than explore innovative solutions.

    The student tuition proposal embodies the bold, innovative approach we need. What have the regents given us? More of the same. We can forgive the regents for not passing the student tuition proposal, but their failure to identify new long-term solutions is unforgivable and hurting Arizonans. The regents have a responsibility to throw out their old, disastrous tuition model and identify a new integrated funding solution for Arizona employers and students.

    Who is to blame for the board of regents’ failures? Clearly the governor carries some responsibility for the regents she chose to appoint, and the state Legislature’s abysmal leadership and support for higher education only compound the issue, but in the end the responsibility for the regents’ failure lies on the shoulders of you and me, average Arizona citizens and students at Arizona’s public universities. We have a responsibility to future Arizonans to demand a better solution from the board of regents.

    The regents’ model for setting tuition and the current approach to funding higher education are flawed. Their approach hurts Arizona families by requiring families to pay more, hurts Arizona students by limiting the opportunities available to them and hurts the Arizona economy by limiting a qualified, well-educated workforce. We deserve better. As an Arizona citizen, take action. Raise the bar for the Arizona Board of Regents and tell them you expect innovative and bold solutions.

    Steven Gerner is a junior majoring in biochemistry and political science. He serves as a senator for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

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