ABOR holds public forum to discuss tuition and fees increases

The Arizona Board of Regents held a public forum Wednesday to discuss proposed tuition and fees increases for the 2013-2014 school year at the three public universities in Arizona.

Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Rick Myers moderated the hearing from Gallagher Theater on the campus of the University of Arizona and it was simulcast at seven other campuses in Arizona. Items presented in the hearing will be discussed and voted on at the Arizona Board of Regents’ meeting on April 4.

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart recommended that the UA increase base tuition by 3 percent and impose a mandatory $80 increase in library fees for all students at the university’s two campuses.

If approved, tuition for undergraduate residents in Arizona would increase from $10,035 to $10,391, according to documents provided by the board. Undergraduate tuition for non-residents would increase from $26,231 to $27,073.

The tuition and fees increases will generate $10.8 million from current students and an additional $6.2 million from enrollment growth, according to Hart.

Hart could not be reached for comment about what the UA plans to do with the additional funds.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Katy Murray and Graduate and Professional Student Council President Zachary Brooks both announced their support for Hart’s tuition increases. However, Murray said that she does not support the library fee increase.

“Any particular fee that is a mandatory fee that’s going up is something that we’re not particularly in support of,” Murray said. “With all the additional costs that students are looking at, whether that is the cost of student housing or tuition, that all makes up a student’s cost of attendance.”

While students at the UA Main Campus supported Hart’s recommendations, students at the UA Sierra Vista campus were opposed to the possible increase in tuition and fees.

“We need to keep in mind that UA South is a non-traditional campus with non- traditional students,” said Associated Students of The University of Arizona South President Alexis Easlick. “Our students here at UA South range from students who have full-time jobs to parents to active duty military students, as well as students transferring from community college… Some of our students have a roundtrip of over 100 miles when travelling to and from class.”

While the purpose of the forum was to get students’ opinions on the proposed tuition increases, fewer than 10 students showed up to the hearing. Those who spoke were in support of the tuition and fees increase, but said they believed that the UA should increase funding by doing something other than increasing tuition.

“What we’re doing with increasing tuition is treating the symptom, not the cause,” said ASUA Academic Affairs Director Anthony Carli.

The UA has lost $180 million in funding since 2008 and per-student funding is the lowest it’s been since 1967. University of Arizona has increased tuition by nearly 90 percent for undergraduate students from 2008 to 2011.

Carli and ASUA Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Chaifetz suggested ways for the state to invest in students, which included tax rebates for students who stay and work in Arizona after graduation.

The out-of-the-box suggestions caught the eye of Chairman Myers, who said he believes that Arizona needs to do a better job of prioritizing higher education.

“If you combine tuition and state funding, we’re among the lowest major universities in terms of the amount of money available,” Myers said. “As efficient as we are, that can’t continue. If we stay among the lowest in the country in per-student funding, we’re not going to be able to maintain the high quality programs that we have.”

Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University also proposed modest tuition increases of 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Proposed tuition and fees increases were met with support from students and student government leaders on both campuses.

Student leaders at UA and NAU objected to removing the student government leaders from their positions next to board members on stage.

Myers said the decision was made to avoid confusion by separating the advocating body from the voting body. Having elected student government leaders sit on stage misleads the audience to believe that they have a vote on the proposed tuition increases, when in reality their role is to advocate for students.

“It obviously upset people and I feel bad about that,” Myers said. “It wasn’t meant to disrespect, it was meant to clarify.”

According to Myers, the regents will consider going back to the original model or having a separate table for student government leaders at next year’s tuition hearing.

The Arizona Board of Regents’ will meet on April 4 and 5 on the campus of the University of Arizona. Meetings will be held on the third floor of the Student Union in the North Ballroom/Catalina Room.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.