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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Regents consider program fee cons

    Increasing or cutting a student’s tuition based on his or her major is a practical concept for graduate students, but it could jeopardize the quality of education for undergraduates, members of the Arizona Board of Regents said Friday.

    Regents discussed the proposed revisions to the procedure for setting and distributing tuition and asked for more explanation on how differential tuition would accommodate the needs of a diverse student body.

    Unlike a university’s base tuition, which is the standard university tuition price, a differential tuition deviates from the base and can apply to an entire college, school or campus, according to the agenda.

    This also allows a UA college or program to set tuition within the top of the bottom one-third of peer colleges or programs rather than entire institutions. In doing so, a student at the UA could pay more or less than the top of the bottom one-third depending on what he or she studies, said Benjamin Graff, the voting student regent.

    While establishing a tuition that differs from the university’s standard rate could prove beneficial for graduate students who study disciplines that incur more expenses, the revisions aren’t clear if this practice would include undergraduates, said Regent Jack Jewett.

    If undergraduates are included, the policy needs to state whether differential tuition can be charged to all undergraduates or only to those taking upper-division units or professional study, Jewett said.

    There also needs to be a strict financial aid policy for colleges and schools that charge a differential tuition, otherwise students – especially undergraduates – may be cheated out of the education they want because of affordability, said Edward Hermes, the non-voting student regent.

    Graff, a third-year law student, agreed and expressed his concern that undergraduates would be left behind academically if adequate financial aid is not provided.

    “”We’ve tested the waters with differential tuition, but we’re on the brink of the diving board for undergraduate students,”” Graff said. “”We need to look at how we’re keeping (tuition) affordable with financial aid.””

    Any college or school that requests a differential tuition is also required to submit a financial aid plan to the board. The policy suggests about 15 percent of a college’s differential revenues be set aside for financial aid, according to the agenda.

    But that percentage should be a requirement, not a recommendation, said Hermes, a political science and history senior at Arizona State University.

    “”Otherwise, this will take us down a road where students choose their major based on what they can afford instead of what they want,”” Hermes said.

    The question of whether a differential tuition would hinder a student’s academic freedom is also the biggest concern among the Arizona Students’ Association, said Fernando Ascencio, the chairman of the association finance committee.

    “”We don’t want students being priced out of majors,”” Ascencio said. “”And we don’t want students to be segregated from the opportunities for majors just because it is too expensive.””

    Program Fees

    In addition to mandating adequate financial aid, the revisions also need to specify if the “”top of the bottom one-third”” rule applies to class and special program fees, said Regent Fred Boice.

    Much like class fees that charge students for special resources used in a course, program fees allow higher-cost colleges to charge students for technological equipment and personnel expenses that aren’t standard in other fields, according to the agenda.

    But it’s unclear how each fee would be added to a student’s tuition and whether it would apply to a base or differential rate, which means it would need to be measured by the “”top of the bottom one-third”” standard, Boice said.

    “”These terms need to be explicitly clear and we need to know when the one-third rule applies,”” Boice said.

    And as the university charges different tuitions based on the needs and disciplines of its students, the concept of it being affordable will also need to change, Graff said.

    “”The one-third rule has evolved into ‘universal handshake’ between students and administrators,”” Graff said. “”If we are to shift or if the one-third rule is redefined, we need to communicate that with the students.””

    There also needs to be more explanation as to why program fees are applicable for undergraduate students, said Ascencio, a political science senior.

    One criterion that a program needs to meet before charging a fee is showing evidence that the program has potential for students to earn a substantially higher salary than the average college graduate, according to the agenda.

    “”It’s easier to predict the salary of a graduate student, but that’s very hard to predict and prove with an undergraduate,”” Ascencio said.

    Another concern is whether the fees have become excessive, said Regent Robert Bulla.

    Before a department requests a special class fee, it’s first recommended to see how many class fees are already applied within the program. If the number seems high, the college is encouraged to request a program fee instead, according to the agenda.

    “”I’m not comfortable with that,”” Bulla said. “”I’m not sure having a lot of class fees qualifies having a program fee.””

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