ABOR to set tuition and housing rates at next meeting

The Arizona Board of Regents will meet Thursday to set the tuition and fees rates for the 2013-2014 school year at the three Arizona universities.

The board will vote on proposals of the three university presidents, which were given at a public hearing last Wednesday. The forum, which was simulcast at eight campuses in Arizona, gave the board the opportunity to hear the public’s opinions on the proposed tuition recommendations.

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart has recommended a 3 percent increase in base tuition and an $80 increase in the student library fee for all students.

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 proposal also includes a 20 percent decrease in tuition for Arizona residents enrolled in the James E. Rogers College of Law and a 27 percent decrease for non-resident students.

More than 80 percent of the students in the College of Law receive some sort of financial aid. According to Hart, they can afford to make this proposal because the school’s new Juris Doctor programs can produce additional revenue by diversifying student populations.

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.

The money will mainly be used to cover the cost of growing enrollment, but also will be used for strategic faculty hires and building improvements, according to documents provided by the board.

The library fee is expected to generate $2.4 million of that amount, which will be used to purchase new materials and expand current services, according to Dean of University Libraries Carla Stoffle.

Hart’s proposal to moderately increase tuition was met with support from student leaders on the UA’s Main Campus.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Katy Murray and Graduate and Professional Student Council President Zachary Brooks both announced that they approve of Hart’s recommendations. However, Murray made it clear that the ASUA would not support an increase in tuition above 3 percent.

“We have carefully looked over the plan that President Hart has put forth and we are willing to stand by her side in supporting that plan,” Murray said. “But with that being said, it is also very important from the student perspective to realize that that is the absolute maximum we are able to accommodate at this time.”

Associated Students of the University of Arizona South President Alexis Easlick on the UA’s South Campus had a different opinion on Hart’s proposed tuition and fees increases.

“We need to keep in mind that UA South is a non-traditional campus with non- traditional students,” Easlick said. “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 majority of students who spoke at the tuition hearing were in support of Hart’s recommendations, they were fearful that increasing tuition would distract the Board from an even bigger problem.

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

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

Carli and ASUA Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Chaifetz urged the board to shift its focus from increasing tuition to increasing funding. Chaifetz recommended that the state offer tax rebates for students who stay and work in Arizona after graduation.

These statements caught the eye of Board Chairman Rick Myers, who was moderating the hearing from Gallagher Theater on the UA campus.

“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.”

Rising tuition costs have been a problem at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University as well. Since 2007, ASU’s in-state undergraduate tuition has increased by 96 percent and NAU’s in-state undergraduate tuition has increased by 92 percent.

Despite this, students and student government leaders chose to support their presidents’ proposals of moderate tuition increases for the 2013-2014 school year. ASU President Michael Crow proposed a 3 percent increase in tuition for all students, while NAU President John Haeger proposed a 5 percent increase in tuition for in-state students and a 2 percent increase in tuition for out-of-state students.

The board will also set the housing rates for next school year at all on-campus residence halls.

According to documents provided by the board, the UA is recommending an average increase of 2.15 percent in housing rates for all undergraduate residence halls. The proposal also requests to hold graduate housing rates at their current level.

UA’s Residence Hall Association submitted the proposal, adjusting rates by accounting for the cost of properties surrounding the university.

“The RHA General Body was extremely active and intentional in deciding which option for increase they wanted to endorse,” said RHA President Shelby Deemer. “We, as well as the rest of the RHA executive board and members, stand behind the general body and support them in their decision.”

The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the North Ballroom/Catalina Room on the third floor of the Student Union on the University of Arizona campus.

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