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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tuition increases aren’t all bad

    Another semester, another tuition battle. The postponed clash between the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents will soon resume in full force. The board is set to decide on the final increase this December, and a survey sent to students this week via e-mail will play an important role in the decision. The knee-jerk reaction of students to tuition hikes falls somewhere between disgust and fury. Tuition rates aren’t all bad, however, and this sort of reaction overshadows the benefits of increased tuition.

    Many opponents of tuition increases point to the clause of the Arizona state Constitution that states that education must be “”as nearly free as possible,”” as though the argument were over. This meaningless phrase says less about the price of tuition and more about the ineptitude of the text writers – clearly no Madisons in the Old Pueblo. In fact, “”as nearly free as possible”” can be applied to just about anything – technically, any good is “”as free as possible.”” If it were any freer, the producer would be operating at a loss, and the good would not be available for purchase.

    The UA is no different. But the UA is not providing a good; it is providing an experience, under the mission to constantly improve the value of that experience. These improvements – new facilities, high-quality professors and student services – cost money. To those who want lower tuition: what goes first? Shall it be the technology labs in the Main Library that always seem to be filled? What about the improved recreational center that students agitated for? Should we cut professors’ salaries and contribute to the loss of talent without replacement? Just ask the current federal administration how your budget looks after decreasing incoming revenue and increasing expenditures.

    The UA is, at its core, a state-run business that sells a good (education, or, to the really cynical, a piece of paper) to consumers (students, although usually subsidized by their parents) for a price (the cost of tuition). This business must make a decision as costs rise – increase the price of the product and riskangering and possibly losing customers? Or keep prices low, offering an inferior product to a greater number of buyers? A college education is not a pizza, but the same principles apply. Right now, the college industry is a sellers’ market – there is much greater demand for college education, especially higher-level education, than there is supply. Yet in a free market, this doesn’t last. As more suppliers seek to cash in, the increased competition drives down the cost. And in fact, even without a flood of new schools, cost is decreasing as existing schools fill in the “”bargain”” niche that has previously been absent.

    Critics will argue that education is not a mere commodity; at a state-funded school, the goal should be providing education, and that increasing tuition hinders the ability of students to attend school. Ironically, a reduced tuition rate would be most harmful towards the poorest students. Ten percent of any tuition increase is required to go toward financial aid; thus, decreased tuition rates would lead to a smaller amount of funds for aid. So while the burden on middle-class families may be slightly reduced, an impoverished student who had the grades may still not be able to afford school.

    You may think that while some improvements are necessary, others are unimportant and not worth an increase in tuition. This packaging problem is most commonly associated with cable television – while you may want ESPN and ESPN2, you really can live without Lifetime. However, it’s an all-or-nothing deal.

    This is why the e-mailed ASUA survey provides such a great opportunity for the student body. The survey is akin to the cable company asking you which channels you use and don’t use, and changing its costs and offerings accordingly. Take advantage of this opportunity in deciding university spending policy. If you really want to keep tuition costs low, say no to the new gym, say no to professor retention and say no to club funding. However, if you desire an improved university, be prepared to fork over the dough. You cannot have your money and spend it, too.

    Evan Lisull is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science. He can be reached at

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