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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No end in sight for tuition increases

    The statistics don’t lie. We’re facing a huge problem. And it’s one that will only get worse if we do nothing about it.

    According to original research, the price of UA tuition, adjusted to May 2006 dollars, has gone up 292 percent since 1976. The operating budget, however, has gone up just 132 percent since that same time, also adjusted for inflation.

    The numbers show that tuition has risen at over twice the rate of the total budget increase – meaning as the years go by, the university depends more on student tuition and less on state funding.

    But why do tuition increases even matter? Because tuition is the cost of entry for our university and it is the ticket into the educated class. Dozens of studies show that college graduates make significantly more money than high school graduates.

    College is, ultimately, the invitation into the middle class. And by raising tuition, we are closing off opportunity for advancement for the poorest. The higher tuition gets, the further away the land of opportunity is.

    All of this might be mitigated by financial aid, were it available in the ways it once was. Financial aid, however, has been dramatically cut at the national level.

    Pell Grants, one of the most important national financial resources, have been drastically cut over the past few years. In the 2005-2006 school year, for example, 2,700 fewer students received a Pell Grant in Arizona than the year before because of a change in the financial aid formula. This translated to Arizona’s university students losing $7,492,448. And yet tuition went up 14 percent that school year.

    This is a national and local problem – but responsible state leaders should respond to decreased student aid with either local aid or by not raising tuition. But asking for responsible state leadership is like asking for truth from a politician.

    Less financial aid for higher tuition costs is a recipe for making college less affordable and therefore less accessible. And by being less accessible, we are eliminating education as the great equalizer.

    We need not, however, be a victim of tuition increases. There are more than 100,000 college students in the state of Arizona – and each of us contributes $1 per year to the Arizona Students’ Association.

    Yet ASA, run between the three universities, has continued to be ineffective and spineless as tuition has increased. So have our leaders in the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, even the ones that ran on this issue.

    Our student leaders encourage us to be involved at tuition hearings. They will, I’m sure, encourage us to participate in other one-time events.

    Instead of having a consistent, unified student voice, ASA and ASUA are content with fragmented access to voice our opinion. Where is a lobby day for students to travel to the state Capitol? Where is a letter-writing campaign or a postcard campaign? Where is the consistent, unrelenting push for lower tuition?

    Over the summer, ASUA President Erin Hertzog and Vice President Jami Reinsch, and ASA Director Matthew Boepple, visited the state legislature to advocate for more state funding for financial aid. It really was a great idea. But it turns out they showed up one day after the Senate had already adjourned for the weekend. A day late and a dollar short must be a rally cry for our student leaders.

    But for all of the failure ASUA has faced before, I know they can do something. Five years ago, students at California state schools were facing some of the same dilemmas. Student fees were increasing, housing was becoming more expensive and the student voice was going unheard at their state capitol.

    David Smith, the president of California Students’ Association (similar to our ASA) took action.

    As president, he consistently advocated for a real student voice at the state Capitol. He and a few friends lobbied every state legislator. They connected their own struggles to the college lives of the state legislators. One legislator was surprised to learn that four students were living in a room where two used to live. Another was surprised at the cost of the dorms on campus.

    In the end, the group won more than $20 million for low-income student housing and a freeze on an increase on student fees. This was the first time in California state history that there was funding for student housing. It was a major victory – and one we could see in Arizona.

    I urge ASUA and ASA to create a consistent campaign against tuition increases. Work with the other state universities and fight for more state funding. Mobilize students who care about this issue to write letters and get their friends to join.

    ASUA must start early, right now, and get students involved. Start spreading information, lobbying as soon as the legislative session starts, and do more than show up with 10 people and a sign. University students in Arizona are 100,000 strong – we just need to start acting like it.

    Sam Feldman is a junior majoring in political science and Spanish. He can be reached at letters@email.arizona.edu.

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